Iodine On My Mind

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News for your health!
Heart and SIDS

Iodine and Heart Health

International Medical Veritas Association

        According to Scientific American physicians for decades have grappled with ways to block further tissue damage in patients who suffer heart attacks. They have tried everything from drugs to cell therapy—all with little luck. But promising new research indicates that a biogel made from seaweed may have the healing powers that have thus far eluded them. Some of the principle healing agents in seaweed are magnesium, iodine, and selenium.

      Though the main theme of this book is magnesium medicine for cardiac care we will deal in this chapter with iodine and in another with the important mineral selenium. Selenium is not only crucial when using iodine but it addresses most directly the Hun Hordes of Mercury that are attacking heart tissues in massive amounts leading to cardiac arrest. Mercury is a deadly cardiac poison whose best antidote is selenium - since they bind together making it easier for the body to remove the selenium-mercury compound. 

     Doctors and all health care practitioners need to be up on their minerals because we need them now more than ever. Minerals provide the foundations of our bodies as cement provides the support for most building foundations. We need to be acutely aware also of how the minerals work together and are dependent on each other for functioning at optimal levels. It is important that mineral interactions be taken into account when looking at iodine supplementation. A person with superior nutrient intake, especially of selenium, will be much more likely to respond well to higher intakes of iodine.

       Seaweeds (iodine) have exceptional value in the treatment of candida overgrowth. They contain selenium and (all the) other minerals necessary for rebuilding immunity; furthermore the rich iodine content is used by enzymes in the body to produce iodine-charged free radicals which deactivate yeasts.[i] Experiments have shown that k. japonica, edible seaweed, was able to transform inorganic selenium to organic selenium through metabolism. Seaweed was crucial in the evolution of life in that it was and still is responsible for concentrating iodine from the ocean. The Japanese eat more seaweed then anyone in the world and they enjoy some of the best health statistics for it. 

      Clinical cardiovascular features of hypothyroidism include: bradycardia, reduced cardiac output, increased pericardial and pleural effusions, increased diastolic blood pressure and peripheral vasoconstriction. According to Dr. Stephen A. Hoption Cann, Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia, iodine deficiency can have deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system, and correspondingly, that a higher iodine intake may benefit cardiovascular function.[ii]

     Regional iodine intake has been shown to be associated with the prevalence of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, where autoimmune hypothyroidism is the more common of the two in regions with moderate to high iodine intake. Both of these thyroid abnormalities have been shown to negatively affect cardiovascular function.

Selenium, an important antioxidant in the thyroid and involved
 in the metabolism of iodine-containing thyroid hormones, may
 play an interactive role in the development of these thyroid
 irregularities, and in turn, cardiovascular disease.
                                                                          Dr. Stephen. Hoption Cann

     Dr. Michael Donaldson says, “Iodine stabilizes the heart rhythm, lowers serum cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and is known to make the blood thinner as well, judging by longer clotting times seen by clinicians. Iodine is not only good for the cardiovascular system, it is vital. Sufficient iodine is needed for a stable rhythmic heart beat. Iodine, directly or indirectly, can normalize serum cholesterol levels and normalize blood pressure. Iodine attaches to insulin receptors and improves glucose metabolism, which is good news for people with diabetes. Iodine and iodine-rich foods have long been used as a treatment for hypertension and cardiovascular disease; yet, modern randomized studies examining the effects of iodine on cardiovascular disease have not been carried out.”[iii]

Adequate iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function.
 The heart is a target organ for thyroid hormones.  Marked changes
 occur in cardiac function in patients with hypo- or hyperthyroidism.

     The country of Finland is an excellent case study of cardiovascular disease and iodine, as reviewed by Dr. Cann. Endemic goiter was common in people and in domestic animals, particularly in the eastern part of Finland away from the sea. Studies in the 1950s revealed that the major dietary difference between eastern and western Finland was iodine. The risk of death from coronary heart disease was 3.5 times higher for people with a goiter in Finland.[iv]

     "Thyroid hormone is an important regulator of cardiac function and cardiovascular hemodynamics. Triiodothyronine, (T(3)), the physiologically active form of thyroid hormone, binds to nuclear receptor proteins and mediates the expression of several important cardiac genes, inducing transcription of the positively regulated genes including alpha-myosin heavy chain (MHC) and the sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase.” [v]

      “Negatively regulated genes include beta-MHC and phospholamban, which are down regulated in the presence of normal serum levels of thyroid hormone. T(3) mediated effects on the systemic vasculature include relaxation of vascular smooth muscle resulting in decreased arterial resistance and diastolic blood pressure. In hyperthyroidism, cardiac contractility and cardiac output are enhanced and systemic vascular resistance is decreased, while in hypothyroidism, the opposite is true. Patients with subclinical hypothyroidism manifest many of the same cardiovascular changes, but to a lesser degree than that which occurs in overt hypothyroidism. Cardiac disease states are sometimes associated with the low T(3) syndrome.”[vi]

      “The phenotype of the failing heart resembles that of the hypothyroid heart, both in cardiac physiology and in gene expression. Changes in serum T(3) levels in patients with chronic congestive heart failure are caused by alterations in thyroid hormone metabolism suggesting that patients may benefit from T(3) replacement in this setting."[vii] T(3) of course is iodine dependent so the relationship between iodine and heart disease gets clearer.

Iodine-containing thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and
 triiodothyronine (T3), are important metabolic regulators
 of cardiovascular activity with the ability to exert action on
 cardiac myocytes, vascular smooth muscle, and endothelial cells.
                                                                                       Dr. Stephen. Hoption Cann

    “Whole body sufficiency of iodine/iodide results in optimal cardiac functions,” writes Dr. Guy Abraham.[viii] There is an epidemic of cardiac arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation in this country and Dr. Abraham is convinced that the medical iodine phobia has a great deal to do with this phenomenon. Adequate stores of iodine are necessary for a smooth heartbeat.[ix]

      The thyroid hormone deficiency on cardiovascular function can be characterized with decreased myocardial contractility and increased peripheral vascular resistance as well as with the changes in lipid metabolism.[x] Dr. B. West says, “Iodine supplementation may be the missing link in a good percentage of heart arrhythmia cases, especially atrial fibrillation. The body needs adequate stores of iodine for the heart to beat smoothly.  After close to a year now of using Iodine Fulfillment Therapy, I can attest to this fact.  Most of the stubborn cases of cardiac arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation that we were unable to completely correct with our cardiac protocols have now been resolved with adequate supplies of iodine added to the protocol.”[xi]

     “Amazingly, while medicine shuns iodine therapy, their most popular anti-fibrillation drug, Amiodarone, actually is iodine in a more toxic, sustained-release form. This drug can produce a smooth heartbeat when the body has accumulated about 1,500 mgs of iodine—the exact amount of iodine retained by your body when iodine fulfillment is achieved by natural supplementation with Prolamine Iodine. Unfortunately, Amiodarone is an extremely toxic form of iodine used by the medical profession. The side effects are often too great (and even life threatening) for most people to endure long enough to achieve a normal heartbeat. In addition, once you stop this drug, your original problem returns. Iodine therapy, on the other hand, fulfills the body’s needs safely, then maintains the smooth heartbeat with a low-maintenance dose,” continued Dr. West.

     Dr. Donaldson reminds us of the selenium iodine connection saying, “Another factor in how much iodine can be safely used depends on other possible mineral deficiencies. Selenium is very important for thyroid function. Selenium is part of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase. Glutathione peroxidase in the thyroid helps quench free-radicals produced by the enzyme thyroid peroxidase (which functions to organify iodide as it enters the thyroid). If high levels of iodide are present in the thyroid without sufficient amounts of glutathione peroxidase it causes free-radical damage to the thyroid, leading to autoimmune thyroid disease. Several of the enzymes that convert T4 into T3 also require selenium. Studies in Zaire have found that supplementing selenium and iodine deficient children with just selenium had adverse effects on thyroid function.” [xii]

The selenium content in seaweed can bind with
 whatever mercury is present and render it harmless.

      There are just some people who understand the basics of cellular medicine and act appropriately. Dr. John Young in Tampa Florida has been experimenting with a new process for reversing metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. Over the past seven years he claims to have a success rate of 80 percent with over 100 diabetes patients. Dr. Young uses a combination of alkaline protein and minerals with a form of iodine that he says reverses the process in diabetes patients in eight to 12 weeks.

     It’s important to remember that diabetes and heart disease share similar etiologies. Whatever Dr. Young is doing for his diabetic patients physicians can be doing for their heart patients. Iodine is critical to the heart and arterial system so we know it needs to be part of a fundamental protocol either in a preventative or treatment sense.

     Dr. George Flechas has found that iodine can reduce the need for insulin in diabetic patients, using 50 to 100 mg of iodine per day. Of 12 patients, 6 were able to completely come off their medications with random glucose readings below 100 mg/dl and a HbA1c less than 5.8 (normal), and the other 6 were able to reduce the amount and/or number of medications needed to control their diabetes.

       There is a patient who had severe mitral valve prolapse. A 35-year old banker who could not walk more than 20 metres without getting cyanosed. Five cardiologists and surgeons suggested open heart surgery immediately. He decided against the surgery and went to the DaVinci Clinic in Cyrus to my colleague Dr. George Gorgiou. A central part of the pathology was severe mercury toxicity of the heart tissues - he removed 14 amalgams poisoning himself in the process which caused severe mitral valve prolapse. With the correct treatment not only did this man survive but nearly a year later he is now wind surfing 12 miles at competition standard and came first two weeks ago in a race with two others. He is working a full life etc.

     The patient actually has registered with the Guiness Book of Records as being the only man on this planet who has completely healed of severe mitral valve prolapse without open-heart surgery. Dr. Georgiou is a naturopathic doctor whose speciality is chelation of heavy metals. He has done research in Russia creating his own natural chelator called HMD. There are doctors out in the field who understand what is actually going on in cardiac patients and treat them in ways mainstream cardiologists don't even dream of. Basic to this man's treatment was magnesium, iodine and natural chelation with the HMD and other naturopathic support medicinals.

     My soon to be released book on Iodine is dedicated to the iodine doctors, brave souls who have risked bringing medicine back to some semblance of sanity. Iodine offers us such a return; it is bedrock medicine and is almost as useful as magnesium chloride. The above is the last chapter written for the book and represents a breakthrough in cardiac care.

     Having just finished the book it still amazes me the mysteries of iodine. I am known in certain circles as the magnesium man but with the publishing of this book I am definitely in the iodine camp. The experience of the past few days though are transforming me into an iodine man as well.

     My whole family came down with something that has been going around the neighborhood, let’s call it the flu. As the first winds of it approached my body’s senses I ran for the iodine and took strong doses of it every hour or two and it beat the invading devils, headed them off right at the pass. I still got the symptoms of cough and running nose but I did not feel or get what most people call ‘sick’. I was right on the edge for a day but each time I took the iodine I could feel it giving me strength. The only side effect was that my mind intensified in clarity, my sleep time was reduced and I woke up fresh and ready to run to my work. I just this moment said to one of my son’s, who is suffering from the flu that he and I were both ignorant, meaning he did not think to take the iodine and until this week I never had for this purpose either. I have done so for my little children when they have gotten sick but there is nothing like first hand experience.

     I was using the Nascent Iodine[xiii], which I believe is the safest and most effective of the iodine’s available and for the children I would only use this. It is not as concentrated as Lugol’s, even the newer watered down Lugol’s, which is mostly what is available in the United States after some laws changed, is much stronger. I thus recommend Lugol’s for transdermal iodine therapy. Many of the iodine doctors use Iodoral or Iosol and with these one can take iodine dosages up to very high levels safely. The Nascent is something different, having powerful effects at much lower dosages. Feeling it in ones mouth hour after hour gives one a sense of amazement about iodine.

     Considering the importance of this element for overall well-being, it is most amazing that no study so far has attempted to answer the very important question about what the optimal amount of daily iodine intake should be for the greatest levels of mental and physical well-being in the majority of a population with a minimum of negative effects. The more one experiences iodine the higher ones estimate goes in this regard.

     An important note that the CDC would not like you to know is that Russian researchers and experts in mercury have correlated the flu with mercury toxicity more than with little bugs that crawl around inside of us. And behold, iodine chelates mercury as it does fluoride, bromide and even percolate, the halogen like rocket fuel polluting half of North America. In The Ultimate Heart Medicine book we see that mercury is a huge problem for heart muscles, which concentrate it to levels thousands of times higher than seen in other tissues.

     Though iodine is known for its importance for the thyroid, little has been publicized about its other crucial roles. Iodine is needed in microgram amounts for the health of the thyroid on a daily basis but when you factor in the needs of all the other tissues and organs[xiv] much higher doses are needed.   Iodine supports the health of many organs in the body but for the heart it is mission critical as is magnesium. 

Mark Sircus Ac., OMD
Director International Medical Veritas Association

[i] P. Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods, Revised Edition, North Atlantic Books, 36, 1993.
[ii] Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 25, No. 1, 1-11 (2006) Hypothesis: Dietary Iodine Intake in the Etiology of Cardiovascular Disease
[iii] ibid
[iv] Cann SAH. Hypothesis: dietary iodine intake in the etiology of cardiovascular disease. J Am Coll Nutr 2006;25(1):1-11.
[v] Thyroid hormone and the cardiovascular system. Danzi S, Klein I. Minerva Endocrinol. 2004 Sep;29(3):139-50. Review.
[vi] ibid
[vii] ibid
[viii] The Original Internist, 12(2):57-66, 2005
[ix] Health Alert, Vol. 22, No. 12
[x] Iodine deficiency in cardiovascular diseases Molnar I, Magyari M, Stief L. Orv Hetil. 1998 Aug 30;139(35):2071-3. Hungarian.
[xi] Atrial Fibrillation, Arrhythmias and Iodine. West B Health Alert, June 2006, Volume 23, Issue 6
[xiii]    Toll Free (800) 257-3315
[xiv] Other organs are also able to take up iodine, too, by the same transport protein as the thyroid. Research has shown that the receptor for iodine uptake is in the thyroid gland, salivary gland, parotid gland, submandibular gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, testis, mammary gland, gastric mucosa, prostate, ovary, adrenal gland, heart, thymus, lung, bladder, kidney, endometrium, and also breast, ovary and colon and the lacrimal gland The ovaries hold the second highest concentration of iodine, after the thyroid.  The breasts also have a high concentration of iodine. Most secretions in the body, whether gastric, nasal, tears, sweat, etc., have iodine in them if sufficient iodine is present in the body.

International Medical Veritas Association
Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

Legal Notice: The Author specifically invokes the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and of the press without prejudice. The information written is published for informational purposes only under the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution for the United States of America, and should not in any way be used as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other licensed health care practitioner. The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the FDA. The products discussed herein are not intended to diagnose, cure, prevent or treat any disease. Images, text and logic are copyright protected. ALL rights are explicitly reserved without prejudice, and no part of this essay may be reproduced except by written consent. ©2008 by Mark Sircus 

Medical Hypothesis
The Iodine-Selenium Connection In Respiratory Distress And Sudden Infant Death Syndromes
by Harold D. Foster, Ph.D.
Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada.

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is the leading cause of neonatal death throughout the developed world and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is responsible for the greatest mortality in the postneonatal period. These two syndromes appear to have numerous risk factors in common, suggestive of a common cause. In earlier publications, this author has demonstrated that SIDS has a global distribution pattern that is very similar to that of goiter prior to the introduction of iodine prophylaxis. In the United States, for example, SIDS is twice as common in those states that previously suffered heavily from goiter than in those that did not. It is hypothesized, therefore, that SIDS and probably RDS are caused by T4 and/or T3 deficiencies, which in turn reflect inadequate availability of iodine to the fetus and infant. The effects of this deficiency appear to be exacerbated by either a lack, or an excess, of selenium. Elevated infant mortality clearly occurs under such circumstances in the developing world and it is suggested here that, as shown by widespread maternal goiter, such imbalances are also relatively common in the developed world. Evidence is presented which demonstrates that L-thyroxine and L-triiodothyronine supplementation have been used both to speed fetal lung maturation and to reduce mortality from RDS in a few progressive pediatric hospitals. Furthermore, SIDS victims exhibit thyroid gland abnormalities, T4 deficiencies and subtle developmental deficits which are consistent with a role for iodine inadequacy in this syndrome.


Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) or, as it is sometimes called, hyaline membrane disease, is the leading cause of neonatal death throughout the developed world,1 while sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is responsible for the greatest mortality in the postnatal period.2 To illustrate, in Italy 7.8% of all newborns (up to the 28th day of life) develop RDS.3 Among those that do, mortality is some 46.5%.3 Similarly, in the United States, RDS and its associated complications are estimated to be responsible for between 10,000 and 40,000 neonatal deaths annually, while SIDS mortality is approximately 5,500 each year.4,5

These two syndromes appear to have many risk factors in common.6 Both occur most frequently, for example, in premature, low birth weight males.7,8 Each is commonest in multiple births7,9,10 and seems linked to low maternal age, high parity and reduced socioeconomic status.6,8,11 Clinically, both syndromes are associated with developmental deficits, including inadequacy or abnormality of lung surfactant.12-14 Furthermore, an infant that has successfully survived RDS has a very elevated risk of subsequent death from SIDS.15

A Working Hypothesis

These similarities are suggestive of a common cause(s).6 However, although the literature on RDS and SIDS is voluminous, none of the postulated hypotheses appear to explain adequately, the diverse clinical dimensions of either disorder, nor their epidemiological and clinical similarities.
For this reason, the author used Pearson Correlation to compare the spatial distributions of SIDS in the United States at the state scale, for each of the years 1983 to 1987 and for the period as a whole, with the incidence and/or prevalence and/or mortality of 83 other diseases or disorders.16 In addition, SIDS mortality was correlated with the spatial distributions of 221 geographical variables, ranging from levels of particular elements in soils to variations in industrial and agricultural production. The data banks involved have been described in detail elsewhere.17,18

By far the strongest Pearson correlations obtained, either with SIDS in specific years or for the period 1983 to 1987 as a whole, were with male goiter in military recruits during World War I. For SIDS deaths during the entire 1983 to 1987 period, for example, the association was r=0.75778, p=0.0001. Similar strong positive correlations were found between SIDS mortality for the five year period and both iodine deficient (r = 0.56409, p = 0.0001) and selenium enriched (r = 0.54627, p = 0.0001) soils. The latter associations were of particular interest since in the South Island of New Zealand, where SIDS is especially common, soils are both iodine and selenium depleted.19-21

On the basis of these correlations it is hypothesized that maternal and hence infant iodine deficiency, (exacerbated in some cases by excesses or deficiencies of selenium) is the ultimate cause of SIDS. Such deficiencies would probably result in maternal goiter, accompanied by depressed fetal serum thyroxine (T4) and/or triiodothyronine (T3). Since it is well-known that a serious lack of iodine in pregnant women can result in the birth of cretins22 that display a wide spectrum of extreme clinical deficits,23 it would not be surprising if fetal and infant serum T4 and/or T3 deficiencies were responsible for the subtle neurological, cardiorespiratory and metabolic developmental deficits seen in SIDS autopsies.24-27
As previously pointed out, RDS and SIDS have many risk factors in common. It is further postulated, therefore, that maternal and hence fetal iodine deficiency and selenium imbalance also may be the ultimate cause of RDS. If so, this would explain, at least in part, why so few SIDS deaths are recorded during the first month of life.28,29

During this initial period, T4 and/or T3 deficient neonates probably tend to die of RDS, not SIDS. It would explain also why infants who survive RDS are still at very high risk from subsequent SIDS.15

Thyroid Hormone Deficiency and Infant Death

There is no doubt that, throughout much of the developing world, depressed maternal serum T4 and/or T3 levels are associated with elevated infant mortality.30 In the Jimi River District of Papua and New Guinea,31 for example, a maternal serum total T4 level < 25 ng/ml was found to be associated with an infant mortality rate of 36.0%, compared with 16.4 % for infants of mothers with levels higher than this. Similarly, the same study established an infant death rate of 50.0% for the children of mothers whose total serum T3 < 850 pg/ml, compared with 13.6% mortality for those with more elevated T3 levels. It is not surprising, therefore, that in regions of endemic goiter, in Zaire, Peru, Ecuador and New Guinea, field trials with iodized oil have significantly reduced the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths.30 In Zaire,30 for example, perinatal and infant mortalities were 188 and 250 per 1000 among offspring of mothers who did not receive iodine during pregnancy, compared to 98 and 167 for those whose mothers were given this trace element. Using evidence from such field trials, Clugston and coworkers32 were able to estimate annual stillbirth and neonatal death rates related to iodine deficiency, throughout the WHO South -east Asia region, based on goiter prevalence. They calculated that maternal and hence fetal iodine deficiency was responsible for 101,800 stillbirths and 93,500 neonatal deaths, each year, in the region's eight member countries; the equivalent of 5.0 mortalities per 1000 live births. Since these figures do not include Chinese infant mortalities nor, of course, those of Africa and Central and South America, the annual global infant death total, caused by iodine deficiency, must, at a minimum, be several hundred thousands.

Since the selenoenzyme deiodinase is required to catalyze the conversion of T4 to T3, it is not surprising that some regions of high infant mortality, such as Zaire,30 are deficient not only in iodine, but also in selenium.34 Indeed, animal studies tend to suggest that both elevated and depressed maternal dietary selenium levels may lead to increased stillbirths, abnormalities and higher offspring mortality.35-37

Goiter In The Developed World

Since iodine and selenium requirements peak during pregnancy, it is then that any dietary inadequacy becomes most obvious. For this reason, goiter occurs frequently in pregnant women, even in the developed world.38-41 In Canada,38 for example, the prevalence of goiter among pregnant women is some 4.9%, varying from a low of 2.3% in Quebec to a high of 12.5% in New Brunswick. Nor are all these cases grade I. Nationally, some 28.6% of goiter in pregnant Canadian women is either WHO grade II or III. There appears, however, to be little unique about such high Canadian goiter prevalence. To illustrate, Crooks and colleagues39 reported that 70% of pregnant females in Aberdeen, Scotland were goitrous, while in Dublin, Ireland40 the prevalence of goiter was found to be 58% among expectant mothers. Goiter also is common in pregnant women in the United States, where it shows racial preferences. In San Diego41 for example, while 14% of black teenagers presented for prenatal care had goiter, only 2% of pregnant whites had this condition. Goiter was found also in 4% of San Diego's pregnant Mexican-American teenagers.

Alterations in maternal thyroid function are complex and not fully understood. It is clear, however, that maternal iodine deficiency and associated goiter and hypothyroxinemia do not lead necessarily to increased infant mortality. This appears to be because the thyroid gland seems capable of adapting to the greater need for iodine during pregnancy and can keep thyroid hormone levels in both mother and fetus normal.42 However, as Pharoah and colleagues31 demonstrated in New Guinea, there are threshold levels of iodine (and probably selenium) intake resulting in depressed maternal total and free T4 and/or T3, below which cretinism, stillbirth and infant mortality appear the norm rather than the exception. How frequently such deficiencies occur during pregnancy in the developed world is unclear. However, Delange and coworkers43 have shown that newborn infants are far more sensitive than adults to iodine deficiency. This hypersensitivity can be explained by the particularly low iodine pool of the neonate thyroid, which results in a markedly accelerated turnover rate of intrathyroidal iodine. Evidence will now be presented that suggests such infant iodine deficiency results in death in the developed world far more often than generally is believed.

Thyroid Hormone Deficiency in RDS

RDS is a self-limited clinical syndrome that occurs most often in preterm infants.6,44 Such neonates initially display normal respiration but tachypnea and mild cyanosis signal the onset of distress, usually several minutes to a few hours after birth. Increasing respiratory distress persists and death may occur, usually within 24 to 48 hours.2,6 Evidence clearly shows that this syndrome results from surfactant deficiency,14,45 combined with lung immaturity.44

The association between RDS and premature birth and low birth weight6,7 is suggestive of fetal and neonatal T4 deficiency. To illustrate, Thorpe-Beeston and colleagues46 compared blood T4 levels in 49 small for gestational age fetuses at 21 to 38 weeks gestation, with T4 levels in 62 appropriately sized fetuses. They discovered thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels were higher and T4 levels significantly lower in the fetuses displaying subnormal development. This finding is consistent with the increased birth weights seen in Zaire30 in infants of mothers receiving injections of iodized oil during pregnancy, as compared to those of an untreated control group. In this case, iodine prophylaxis appeared responsible for a 203 g (7.7%) gain in average birth weight.

Experimental evidence appears to show also that T4 deficiency is the fundamental cause of both lung immaturity and surfactant inadequacy in infants suffering from RDS. To illustrate, the administration of intra-amniotic T4 enhances fetal growth and maturation,47 and can be used to increase surfactant microviscosity until lung maturity has been reached.14,45 This technique, for example, was used to accelerate lung maturity in two premature triplet pregnancies at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, Israel.14

If indeed deficiencies of T4 and possibly T3 are involved in the etiology of RDS, then infants dying of this clinical syndrome should display subnormal serum levels of one or both of these two thyroid hormones. This appears to be the case. Schonberger and colleagues48 at the University of Mainz, Germany, for example, established that 13 premature infants with severe respiratory distress had hypothyroid T4 values. As a consequence, on admission to intensive care, every second neonate born after < 37 weeks gestation and weighing < 2200 g was given a daily prophylactic dose of 25 µg L-thyroxine and 5 µg L-triiodothyronine. Untreated neonates acted as a control group. The death rate among the treated group was 6.6% and among the untreated group 29%. The probability that the difference in mortality between the two groups was due to chance was < 0.5% (x2-test, p < 0.005). These results are consistent with the work of Redding and Pereira49 who reported depressed serum T4 in premature newborn infants with respiratory distress syndrome, and Cuestas and coworkers50 and later researchers51,52 who found low T4 and T3 in the cord blood of newborns with this syndrome. As a result of their research project, Schonberger and colleagues48 ensured that all premature infants subsequently admitted to their intensive care unit weighing < 2200 g or born before 37 weeks gestation were given daily thyroid hormone treatment. As a consequence, mortality rates among such infants fell from 29% to 9.5%.
Similar supportive evidence for a key role for T4 deficiency in neonatal death has come from Marsh and coworkers54 at the University of Carolina who prospectively determined serum T4 values in 97 premature, low birth weight infants. They established that 8 infants with a serum T4 value of < 2.5 µg/dl experienced a death rate of 50%, while 89 neonates with serum T4 levels higher than this suffered only 4.5% mortality. The relationship was so marked that very low T4 levels were predictive of mortality independent of birth weight, gestational age or required supplemental fraction of inspired oxygen > 60%. This suggests a threshold value of serum T4 below which the risk of infant mortality
is strongly increased. This, of course, is very consistent with the critical maternal serum T4 levels established in areas of endemic goiter.30,31

Lucas and coworkers54 similarly studied 280 English infants with a mean birth weight of 1330 g and gestation of 30.3 weeks. Plasma T3 concentrations were assayed while these infants were in special care units in Cambridge, Ipswich, King's Lynn, Norwich and Sheffield. It was discovered that mortality rates were significantly related to plasma T3 levels during the first 18 months of life. In infants whose plasma T3 fell below 0.23 µg/dl, 14 out of 61 (23%) died, compared to 12 out of 219 (6%) in those whose plasma T3 remained above this concentration (x2-test, p < 0.0001). Surviving low plasma T3 infants also showed significant mental and motor scale disadvantages at 18 months' corrected age, suggesting physical and mental impairment. Lucas and co-researchers54 pointed out that if data adjustments were made for birth weight, gestation and requirement for mechanical ventilation, the relationship between plasma T3 concentration and mortality was lost. However, this latter statistical step seems very illogical since birth weight,30 gestation46 and the production of surfactant14,45,55 are all adversely affected by thyroid hormone deficiency. They are, therefore, dependent variables and cannot be used to explain away the significance of their causal independent variable. Even if they could, this would be of little assistance to infants dying from T3 deficiency.

Thyroid Hormone Deficiency in SIDS

SIDS is the chief cause of death in infancy, in the developed world, after the first month of life.56 It is defined by exclusion, with the most generally accepted definition being that decided at the Second International Conference on Causes of Sudden Death in Infants, held in Seattle, Washington in 1969.57 At this conference, it was agreed that SIDS consisted of "the sudden death of any infant or young child, which is unexpected by history, and in which a thorough postmortem examination fails to demonstrate any adequate cause for death." It has been argued since that acceptance of an infant death as SIDS also should include an examination of the scene of death and a detailed review of clinical history.58
The literature provides extensive evidence that the root cause of SIDS is a maternal nutritional deficiency or deficiencies.10 To illustrate, SIDS occurs more often in twins than singletons.9,10 It is particularly frequent in infants from multiple pregnancies, especially if they weigh < 2000g at birth.59 When birth weights of twins in a pair are significantly different, it is usually the lighter of the two, if any, that dies of SIDS.60 For these reasons Beal10 pointed out that the best possible explanation of these phenomena "is that some factor is at a critical supply level from the mother during pregnancy. A twin receives only half of this supply, and a smaller twin probably receives less than half." If true, the resulting nutritional deficiency may render the lighter infant even more susceptible to SIDS.

As previously described, this author believes that fetal and hence infant T4 and/or T3 deficiencies are the root causes of both RDS and SIDS. Evidence has been presented elsewhere16 to show that in the case of SIDS this hypothesis meets eight of the Bradford Hill cause and effect criteria. The ninth, specificity of association, is impossible to fulfill since both iodine and selenium imbalances are known to result in a diversity of human disorders, both together and in isolation.30 Rather than repeat the evidence of a SIDS/iodine-selenium association in detail here, emphasis is placed on corollaries that must follow if the hypothesis is correct.

First, since iodine deficiency is the major cause of maternal and fetal T4 inadequacy30,31 and selenium lack depresses T3 levels,30 if the preceding hypothesis is correct, SIDS ought to be commonest in environments where both these elements are scarce. In the developed world, where statistics are reliable, SIDS occurs most often on the Indian Reservation of King County, Washington (with a rate of 8.0 per 1000 live births) and in Canterbury, New Zealand. In the latter city the SIDS rate is 7.9 per 1000 live births.61

Both locations are known to be iodine and selenium deficient.19,21,62-64 Conversely, the world's lowest SIDS rate appears to be recorded in Stockholm, Sweden65 at 0.06 per 1000 live births. Interestingly, a study of iodine urinary levels in infants from 14 European cities and from Toronto, Canada established that depressed concentrations were least common in Stockholm66 where only 5.9% of infants provided samples measuring < 5 µg/dl. This figure compared with 11.9% in Toronto and 100% in Freiburg and Jena. Clearly, therefore, the international SIDS mortality extremes are consistent with the iodine-selenium hypothesis.

Secondly, it follows that if SIDS is due to inadequate iodine intake and/or selenium excess or deficiency, infants dying from this cause should exhibit thyroid gland abnormalities. Riss and Weiler67,68 examined the thyroid glands of 176 SIDS cases aged one year or younger, finding only 14% with normal colloid content. Partially depleted follicles were found in 35% and depleted follicles in 51%. This evidence of raised thyroid activity was only obvious in infants dying after the first month and is clearly consistent with the involvement of thyroid hormone deficiency in SIDS mortality.

Third, if inadequate infant serum T4 and/or T3 occurs prior to death in SIDS then this should be apparent postmortem. The available evidence appears to support a T4 deficiency in many SIDS victims prior to death. In 1981, for example, Chacon and Tildon69 described elevated serum T3 levels in autopsied SIDS victims. They reported that 88% of 50 cases had serum T3 > 2.5 ng/ml, with a mean of 4.06 ng/ml. These values were compared with the 1.8 ng/ml in a control group of infants dying from known causes. Peterson and colleagues70 also demonstrated elevated T3 in SIDS cases and suggested that this hormone might serve as a useful postmortem diagnostic marker for crib death. Comparable results were obtained by Riss and research colleagues68 who reported on blood taken from 53 infants within 18 hours of death. They described a 3.7-fold increase in T3 in 11 SIDS cases, compared to 32 infant controls dying of known causes. This evidence of elevated T3 in SIDS cases has been criticized on the basis that T4 continues to convert to T3 after death.71,72 However, this phenomenon does not seem to adequately explain the major differences in serum T3 in SIDS and non-SIDS cases so soon after death.
Fourth, since thyroid hormones are essential for growth and development, if deficiencies are involved in SIDS, one would anticipate that infants dying from this cause would have low birth weights and display evidence of developmental deficits. This is definitely the case. Millar and coworkers,8 for example, linked the birth and death records of 904 infants dying in Canada during the period 1986 to 1988. For each SIDS case three controls who survived infancy were chosen at random. Subsequent analysis established that in Canada the risk of SIDS was inversely related to both birth weight (p = < 0.001) and duration of pregnancy (p < 0.001). An infant weighing < 2000 g at birth, for example, had some ten times the risk of dying of SIDS compared to one weighing > 4500g (p < 0.001). Not only do SIDS victims tend to have a low birth weight, they also display a very wide range of developmental deficits. These subtle abnormalities, however, are often only apparent at autopsy.24-27 Indeed as Barnett and Hunter73 pointed out "There is a growing body of evidence that SIDS victims are not completely normal and healthy, as was once believed. A variety of new information from several disciplines strongly suggests that the infant who dies suddenly and unexpectedly may do so because of subtle developmental, neurology, cardiorespiratory and metabolic defects that converge at a particularly vulnerable time."11 This viewpoint was repeated by Willinger74 in his concluding remarks to the State of the Art Conference on the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome held in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1992. He pointed out that infants who succumb to SIDS have a nervous system that is impaired in structure and function and which, therefore, adversely affects heart rate and respiration. In addition, neuroendocrine bodies (secretory structures in the lungs that sense oxygen levels and regulate lung development) are overdeveloped in SIDs infants. Of course, thyroid hormones are crucial to both the development of the nervous system21,23,30 and maturity of the lungs.12,14,45,55


Maternal and subsequent fetal iodine deficiency are known to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of stillbirths and infant deaths every year. 30-32 The evidence presented here suggests, however, that contrary to the conventional wisdom, such losses are not limited to the developing world, but also occur in industrialized countries, despite their iodine prophylaxis and neonatal screening programs.30
Although screening for congenital hypothyroidism is essential, it generally comes too late for neonates who die from RDS soon after birth.1,6,48 Such programs generally appear to identify, but fail to treat infants with transient hypothyroidism.57,75,76 This seems significant for two major reasons. First, even transient shortages in thyroid hormones can result in later childhood deficits.77,78 Secondly, it seems likely that these infants, if subsequently stressed by low dietary iodine16 (or selenium deficiency19 or excess,16 goitrogens,30 exposure to cold or infection,79 cigarette smoke80 or prone sleeping position,81,82 seem most likely to succumb to SIDS.83 All of these infant stressors either reduce the availability of iodine and hence reduce serum thyroid hormone levels, or increase the need for T4 and/or T3.


Harold Foster, Ph.D., Professor
Department of Geography
University of Victoria
P. O. Box 3050
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3P5 Canada
Fax 604-721-6216


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