Food Studies: What You Don't Know About Iodine, the Element of the Moment Food Studies: What You Don't Know About Iodine, the Element of the Moment
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Food Studies: What You Don't Know About Iodine, the Element of the Moment

by Amy Pratt

March 30, 2011


It's perhaps self-evident that, as a student of nutrition and dietetics, I take food pretty seriously. I think carefully about what I eat, where it came from, and how it's going to make me feel.

And right now, for people in evacuation centers in Miyagi Prefecture in Japan, iodine is both a threat and a defense. As the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant release radioactive iodine into the air, it can enter the body through the lungs or contaminate the local food supply (especially leafy greens and milk) and be absorbed that way, potentially causing radiation-induced thyroid cancer. KI tablets contain a stable, non-radioactive iodine salt, and if they are taken in advance of any radiological exposure, the thyroid will absorb so much stable iodine that it will become too "full" to take in any radioactive iodine from either the atmosphere or food.

It's quite awe-inspiring to become aware of so many different ways of looking at food through the lens of a single, fairly obscure trace element. I'll always enjoy food for its own sake, but all these little insights only make me appreciate its power to shape our lives even more.

To be continued...

Amy is a student blogger for the Food Studies feature on GOOD's Food hub. If you enjoyed this, you should check out the rest of the Food Studies blogger gang here

Photos: Shopping bags by Mark Hucks, used with permission; Iodine tablets displayed during a drill in Taipei via.

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Food Studies: What You Don't Know About Iodine, the Element of the Moment