Common Nutritional Deficiencies

Are range of nutritional deficiencies are commonly seen every day in clinic:

Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc and Vitamin D

Iodine deficiency is a worldwide problem and alarmingly, is becoming more common in Australia; where up to 50% of Australian school children have found to be iodine deficient. Due to the importance of a baby’s mental development, deficiency is of great concern in pregnant women. Adults with thyroid problems and children with developmental problems should have their iodine levels checked. This is a simple urine test that we can order in our clinics. You can also ask your GP to do the test - in Australia it's available on Medicare.

Here’s the iodine story:
Twenty years ago, Professor Cres Eastman, a world-renowned endocrinologist from Sydney's Westmead Hospital went into the mountain villages of the Tibetan Plateau, where he saw that 13% of the population was born with cretinism. (Cretinism is irreversible mental retardation in young children caused by severe iodine deficience.) It was a massive problem, caused by a simple dietary disorder - a lack of iodine.

Iodine is a mineral found in soil, and absorbed through the food chain. Iodine deficiency results in varying degrees of mental and physical retardation. At its most severe it causes cretinism, which occurs in the womb, and is irreversible. The need for iodine continues for three years, and even mild iodine deficiency can cause a loss of IQ. 
 Just one teaspoon of iodine is all you need over a lifetime, but it needs to be consumed regularly. 

 The telltale sign of an iodine deficient diet is goitre, a swelling of the thyroid gland. Professor Eastman is focusing on eliminating Iodine Deficiency Disease in Tibet. The most effective way to distribute iodine to the community is through salt, as everybody needs salt. 
After 20 years, much has been achieved through using iodised salt throughout Tibet. 
 Salt is simply iodised. The process is simple, and the product is cheap.

Globally, 2.2 billion people live in iodine-deficient areas and Australia is no longer an exception.

Cres’s achievements have changed the lives of thousands of Tibetans, but in returning to Australia, he isn't leaving the problem behind. The problem of iodine deficiency is now getting close to home; if something isn't done soon, young Australian mothers could face a real shock. 
 Our iodine intake is currently half what it was five years ago, but most Australians are unaware that a problem exists. 

 Cres is very concerned that young Australian women are showing signs of iodine deficiency disorder, or IDD. 

Iodine deficiency is most critical during pregnancy, endangering the unborn baby. 

 Women with a thyroid problem in pregnancy are considered an emergency. He tests the thyroid hormone levels. When there is no milk, iodised salt, and only occasional seafood it’s right recipe for iodine deficiency, which is beginning to happen more frequently in Australians. Ten years ago Australians were getting enough iodine in their milk because the dairy industry used iodine to clean milking equipment. We all got enough iodine from traces of iodine in our milk. But the iodine has recently been replaced by chlorine. Unless there is iodised salt in the diet, many Australians may not be taking enough dietary iodine. To understand the extent of the problem in Australia, thousands of school children have been tested, and a staggering 50% suffer from some degree of iodine deficiency. 

From studies we've done now in NSW, VIC and TAS it is clear that we are becoming iodine deficient and our children are iodine deficient. Iodine is no longer in the milk at the levels it used to be, and only 10 per cent of households in Australia use iodised salt. If iodine deficiency isn't treated the result is a population with a much lower average IQ, than in a population that has enough iodine. A serious iodine deficiency causes an average loss of 15 IQ points. A 15 IQ point shift results in a seven-fold increase in children with developmental delay, and a loss of gifted children within the community. 

Children with IDD can suffer from stunted growth, apathy, mental retardation, impaired motor functions, speech impediments, and loss of hearing. There is also a possible link to ADHD. Some  

80% of our daily salt intake is hidden in processed and packaged foods, but manufacturers aren't using iodised salt. 

It's not a matter of more salt, but the right salt.  In a supermarket survey there were only two brands of salt that were iodised. Most of the fancy salts are more expensive and they're not iodised!

Two thirds of the world has mandatory salt iodisation - but not Australia. Professor Eastman therefore recommends that all women of childbearing age take iodine supplements. 

 Apart from iodised salt, food sources of iodine are oysters, cod, kelp, (seaweed) lima beans and sunflower seeds. Most processed foods have little or no iodine.

The treatment and prevention of IDD has been described by the World Health Organisation as the second greatest public health advance this century since the elimination of small pox. 

 Five years into the Tibetan programme the level of its success is clear -none of the treated children have goitres and nearly all students in Tibet now receive iodised salt. 

 In Tibet there is much emphasis on the political rights of the people there – but little emphasis on basic health that allows its people to fulfill their own genetic potential. In Australia, health authorities have decided against iodised salt, for fear of people increasing their salt consumption and causing hypertension and other health problems. Instead, non-organic bread now contains iodised salt. It may not be enough for everyone to get their quota of iodine, as not everyone eats bread. Using iodised salt at home can rectify this.

Click here to find out about iodine testing.

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