This term refers to all the effects of iodine deficiency on growth and development in human and animal populations, which can be prevented by correction of the iodine deficiency. These effects include miscarriages, stillbirths, congenital abnormalities, varying degrees of fetal brain damage, including cretinism, goiter, dwarfism, and impaired mental function at all ages. Usually iodine deficiency is due to the absence of environmental compounds containing iodine salts. This is most common in alpine regions. Another possible cause is a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, such as kale, which contain an enzyme that blocks iodine uptake by the thyroid gland. The end result is the same in both situations: “congenital” thyroid deficiency or cretinism, associated with mental retardation, stunted growth, goiter, characteristic facial appearance, and slow metabolism. In adults the main manifestation is myxedema and goiter, often with extreme thyroid enlargement. Both conditions respond to supplementary iodine, and in infants and children this can prevent permanent intellectual damage.
Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.