by Sunny Layne
WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Iodine is something no one thinks about, but as we reduce our iodized-salt intake, we are depriving ourselves of an essential element.
It's especially important for pregnant women.
Doctors say reducing salt intake is good, as long as you don't decrease your iodine intake, but that may be a challenge.
Iodine is an essential element people need to get in their diets.
It's important for brain and thyroid function and even the breast.
Iodine helps prevent conditions such as goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland.
Doctors say right now Americans are still getting enough iodine in general, but they are concerned especially about pregnant women.
Americans' iodine levels have dropped over the past three decades, and a lack of the element can lead to serious brain complications in unborn babies, as Doctor Marilyn Hines says.
"In pregnancy the fetus could be mentally retarded, the recommended daily allowance is what's needed to prevent cretinism, which is mental retardation in a fetus," Hines said.
The American Thyroid Association recommends that all producers of prepared foods -- which account for up to 70 percent of all salt consumed in the U.S. use iodized salt, something that is not happening right now.
The group also states that women take 150 micrograms of iodine supplements daily during pregnancy and breast-feeding, and that all prenatal vitamins contain 150 micrograms of iodine.
Doctor Hines says be careful when choosing those vitamins because they don't all have the recommended daily allowance.
You can also find iodine in foods like fish, even seaweed, and there is some in milk and eggs.
Doctors don't want people to run out and eat more salt just for the iodine.
But they encourage us to find it naturally in food sources.
Online Anchor: Sunny Layne