Part 2 of 10
There was a phenomenal increase in the use of Iodine for all kinds of maladies from the 1850 through the early 1900s. From 10 preparations listed in pharmacopoeias in 1851 to 1,700 approved pharmocopoeial names assigned to products in 1956.
Per the 11th Edition of the Encyclopedia Britanica (1910-1911.24, Vol. XIV, pp725-726) re various iodine compounds/salts used regularly: “Their pharmacological action is as obscure as their effects in certain diseased conditions are consistently brilliant and unexampled. …they possess the power of driving out impurities from the blood and tissues. Most notably is this the case with the poisonous products of syphilis. In its tertiary stages — and also earlier — this disease yields in the most rapid and unmistakable fashion to iodides;… In the case of chronic lead poisoning. The essential part of the medicinal treatment of this condition is the administration of iodides, which are able to decompose the insoluble albuminates of lead which have become locked up in the tissues, rapidly causing their degeneration, and to cause the excretion of the poisonous metal by means of the intestine and the kidneys. The following is a list of the principal conditions in which iodides are recognized to be of definite value: metallic poisonings, as by lead and mercury, asthma, aneurism, arteriosclerosis, angina pectoris, gout, goiter, syphilis, haemophilia, Bright’s disease (nephritis), and bronchitis.”
And so, as you can see, Iodine, in quite high dosages (300-1,800mg/d) was in widespread use for many years based purely on empirical evidence that it worked. That began to change due to the reports and activism by Professor Theodore Kocher, 1909 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine and Physiology for his work on thyroid surgery. He apparently believed and reported that he had suffered from hyperthyroidism following ingestion of iodide. Subsequently, using his fame and prestige from his Nobel Prize, he set out to convert many others against the use of iodine/iodide for all forms of hyperthyroidism. Although many experts doubt the accuracy of Kocher’s claim, the effects of his vehement public attacks on this vital mineral led to an almost complete abandonment of its widespread use over the following decades.
One must also be aware that Kochler was a surgeon who taught that “the preferred treatment” for hyperthyroidism was surgical. Could he have been biased? Was it an honestly-derived bias or intentional? We’ll never know, however, it is quite clear that his conclusions and influence likely did far more harm than good to the field of medicine. There continued to be a Pro-Iodine faction that used iodine as the primary treatment for hyperthyroidism reporting an 88+% success rate at daily doses of 6-90mg.
Amazingly, it was not until approximately 1907 that Iodine was scientifically determined to be an essential trace mineral. In fact, it is the ONLY trace mineral to be proven essential using human subjects, all subsequent trace mineral research was performed on animals only. The iodine studies were carried out on a couple of thousand young girls over a several year period in Akron, Ohio (an area of high incidence of goiter). The results showed that supplementation with just 4 grams per year reduced the incidence of goiter from 22% in the control group to 0.2% in the supplemented group. This and other studies around the world led to the iodization of salt to prevent goiter. In fact, Iodine was the first public health intervention that used a specific nutrient to prevent a specific condition. It was first implemented in Europe many years before the above-mentioned study and later in the US following the above study by Marine in the 1920s.
The unfortunate thing about all of this is that the amount of iodine added to salt was far too low to provide enough for all of the body’s needs, although it did a fabulous job at reducing the incidence of goiter. The other downside was that it provided a false sense of security that the population’s iodine needs were being met, they were not.