Saturday, August 25, 2012


"Calorie in-Calorie out" calculations provide the most sensible interpretation about the logic of the uncontrolled over weight problem that is staring at humanity to day with very little hope for reversing the trend in the near future. This theory is strengthened by the prevalence of over weight problem mostly  in affluent countries with high purchasing power and ironically low food prices. Americans seem to be ashamed of them selves when it is routinely projected that majority of the population is over weight as measured by the BMI scale and almost one third are eligible to be called obese! No matter what measures have been taken or to be taken, they do not make any dent on the magnitude of the problem. Scientists and sociologists are equally worried as to the precise reason why some people are vulnerable to putting on weight while others are not. Added to this is the wide spread occurrence of life style disorders like diabetes, CVD, hypertension, kidney ailments etc and one is not sure whether these ailments are the direct outcome of over weight conditions. If most Americans are to day taking statin drugs daily to reduce blood cholesterol levels in order to pre-empt heart related diseases, what has really gone wrong with this society that necessitated such a situation?. What are the reasons responsible for changing the health of a healthy nation till just about 50-60 years ago to the present sad condition? Obviously there may not be one single answer to the above perplexing questions.

Food technologists are blamed for "designing" mouth watering products ignoring the nutrition and health aspects while the processing industry is being hauled up for marketing such products providing no option to the consumer to buy better foods. HFCS, GM ingredients, Soy proteins and a multitude of food additives, all permitted by the responsible governments of the day, are used extensively by the processor and the accusation that these are responsible for the present health crisis may be too far fetched. There are scattered and unsubstantiated study reports implicating one or the other ingredient in developing health problems, mainly through animal studies with very little clinical data support. Similarly role of tras fats and saturated fats in cholesterol elevation in blood, CVD and obesity is based on animal experiments. The orchestrated campaign against salt in foods is also being questioned regarding their relevance and veracity. Ultimately nutrition pundits come around to the view that the best way to lead a healthy life is through eating mixed foods containing calorie yielders as well as protective nutrients and phytochemicals. Here again there is hardly any explanation as to why perfectly healthy humans are affected by these diseases, in spite of great control over their diets? Could there be other factors playing crucial role in    
weight gains?

"Swimming against the tide" is an old saying with succinct connotation and any one daring to do that has to be courageous, confident, well meaning, honest and with lot of self conviction. In the scientific community also, like other fields of human endeavor, there are daring explorers who chart out courses according to their conviction opposite to the stand of a vast majority of their fellow scientists. One may recall that Coppernicus was condemned for his conviction based on his scientific findings that earth is round by the all powerful Church and how he was heralded later as a pioneering astronomer is history.  In the obesity research a new class of scientists is emerging which is seeing beyond the present staid stance that over eating is the cause of this disorder. The established scientific theories are invariably exploited by industry to make money without any regard for the well being of the consumer and one often wonders whether the present obesity conditions are becoming the ideal props on which an industry is peddling health foods to make a fortune. Obviously perpetuating obesity may be a necessity for this industry to flourish.  

A new breed of scientists is emerging who do not accept that food alone is responsible for the over weight and the knowledge about human body development is still incomplete. They are pursuing a new line to unravel the role of man made chemicals in influencing human development. It is not that the role of endocrine system in regulating every human function is unknown but in what way and at what levels the functioning of the hormones is aborted or modified or derailed are still a matter of conjecture. Hormones literally control body growth, sexual functions, reproductive process, mood of the individuals, sleep, hunger, stress, metabolism, pancreas, hypothalamus, adrenal glands, thyroid, pituitary and testes. It is the  endocrine system that determines whether one is male or female, tall or short, hirsute or hairless, lean or heavy and such personal traits.  Obviously any event that can affect their routine and regulated functions can have undesirable consequences. Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDS) which have been brought to focus recently are entities which can disrupt the functions of hormonal system with disastrous results as borne by many scientific studies.

Considerable insight has been gained about the occurrence of EDCs in the food consumed to day as well as in the environment where humans live. These include natural hormone like substances in soy bean, hormonal chemicals administered to food animals, plastics of various types, ingredients deployed by the food industry, pesticides, etc and many chemicals identified so far seem to have the ability to mimic hormones like estrogen causing health problems of unimaginable magnitude. They are deduced to be playing an active role in fertility related problems, genital malformation, reduced male birth rates, precocious puberty, miscarriages, behavioral problems, brain abnormalities, impaired immune function, cancers of different type and cardiovascular disease. More alarming is the fact that their effect is more potent on unborn children and newly born ones though some believe they are equally disastrous for adults also.  
Tendency of fish in Thames river in the UK to be more effiminate and decreased population of male fish was attributed to pollution of the water with birth control chemicals. Similarly the abnormal deformed population in Kasargod in Kerala is supposed to be due to the pesticide Endosulfan sprayed on Cashewnut plantations to which the population nearby was exposed. Thus EDC s do exert influence on some functions of hormones in one way or the other.

New investigators pursuing the theory that EDCs will have an influence on obesity also are coming up with new evidences supporting this stand. The fact that many of the EDCs have been safety tested with animals and in vitro studies does not mean that they are totally harmless in human beings. The safety limits for these chemicals arrived at by internationally accepted protocols may hold good still as far as their disease causing potential is concerned. An entirely new approach to the action of EDCs now being pursued presumes that these chemicals even at concentrations below 1 ppb can have potential effect on the development of fat cells as they can hijack the regulatory system that controls body weight. There are many chemicals introduced in the daily lives of human beings and no systematic effort has gone into their impact on obesity. It is an irrefutable fact that phenomenal rise in obesity is matched by rise in manufacture and use of industrial chemicals which may be playing the role as "obesogens". This raises the inevitable question whether human beings will ever be able to avoid over weight problem under such an environment. One can realize the implication of such a situation when apple, most favored nutritious fruit, is known to be laced with at least 12-15 pesticide and other crop protectant chemicals while others like peaches, Bell pepper, Celery, Strawberries, Lettuce, Nectarines, Cherries, Kale etc are also considered as over treated with chemicals. Evidence on the fat storing ability of obesogens is accumulating in recent days, the most impressive study coming from University of California, Irvine where Tributyltin, a fungicide used commonly, was confirmed to be obesogenic in rats. It was found that this chemical activates components in human cells, retinoid X receptors which are necessary for fat cell formation. 

The reported presence of Bis-Phenol A in the urine samples of 93% of Americans and Phthalates in 75% of the population more or less tells the story as to why People in the US are more vulnerable to over weight and obesity. True, over eating and eating of unbalanced foods do contribute but omnipotent presence of EDCs in the foods consumed and the environment they live make it difficult to shed the weight easily under standard weight losing regime. More than 6 billion pounds of BPA and 18 billion pounds of phthalates are produced annually and no wonder a small portion of this, gaining entry into human system, can make the growth dynamics go haywire over a period of time. While BPA is a prominent component of polycarbonate plastics and the widely used epoxy resins used in food packaging, phthalates are part and parcel of many food packings and wrappers, pesticides, toys, PVC pipes, medical supplies etc. Where does the HFCS fit into this obesogen scenario? If these scientists are to be beliefved HFCS plays the role of an obesogen by interfering with the Leptin formation which regulates appetite and consequently increasing the craving for eating for more food.    
The role of obesogens in fat accumulation raises questions about the effectiveness of just diet and exercise in helping people lose pounds and maintain a proper weight. Obesogen research may be in its early stages but surely it is gaining widespread attention among those familiar with problems concerning body weight gain in human beings. Probably at this stage of research it may not be possible to pin point precisely the extent of influence these chemicals exert on the obesity epidemic but what ever has been found so far gives sufficient reasons for alarm. In some of the studies it has been found that obesogens have the ability to target signaling proteins in a developing fetus to make more fat cells. This can be expected to have lifelong consequences because it raises the chance of body fat accumulation as a person ages and making it more difficult to lose excess weight. Even if obesogens do not exert undue influence on adults, it is possible that exposure during pre-birth and early childhood stages can have lasting influence on fat accumulation in the body. It is a matter of speculation whether those born after the widespread production and use of many industrial chemical during the middle of the last millenium were more vulnerable to obesity related fat disorders. The fact that compared to other countries, the US boasts of highest density of obese population and the consumption of industrially processed foods is highest in this country further support the role of obesogenic chemicals in over weight epidemic. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Food business is getting more and more murkier as the "war of attrition" now going on between a hostile consumer activism on one side and the not too transparent food industry under attack. It is difficult to take sides because both the warring parties have their jobs cut out and it is for others who are less biased and more receptive to reasoning to decide about what they want to believe. The stakeholders in food business include the manufacturer, consumer, government, social activists, environmentalist and scientific community. While government has its massive vigilance and safety enforcement responsibilities as mandated by the governing system in vogue, consumer needs to be well informed about the quality and safety of food available in the market. The manufacturer who is in business will invariably focus on his bottom line and no one can blame the industry if it offers products most acceptable to the consumer. Scientific community and social activists work for improving the quality and safety of food by focusing on inappropriate practices and unhealthy trends while the environmentalist has a role to ensure that food production does not vitiate the healthy environment of the human habitat.

What should be the criteria one should use in selecting the right product from the market shelves? Most consumers "eat" the products through their eyes and are attracted by the presentation of the product with all the glory of a slick appearance. The eyes also play a role taking stock of the situation and helps in selection of desired product. The front of the pack labeling regulations in vogue in almost all countries generally provide very valuable information about the nature of the product, its weight, ingredients used, expiry date, nutritional content and some times the retail price also. Branding of food products by reputed manufacturers is meant to create a lasting experience in the minds of the consumer about their good quality. If the product appeals to the consumer, repeat purchases become a reality. Many accusations and insinuations hurled at the organized industry will have to be viewed critically and objectively because mislabeling, misinformation, false claims, lower quality of products, uncertain safety credentials will all ruin the reputation of a normal company and therefore every opportunity must be given to seek clarification through discussion and transparency in order to really crucify them.

How funny it is for any one to blame the industry for all the "sins" in the world with no rhyme or reason! A plethora of diseases like CVD, blood pressure, diabetes, kidney ailments, liver problems, obesity, cancer etc are supposed to be caused by processed foods! If so what has been the role of government agencies with enormous power in preventing these "merchants of death", as the food industry is being called to day? Are not the food scientists, nutritionists, health professionals etc equally responsible for the modern day "sickness" that ails the society? Has the citizen, on whose name the fight is going on to apportion the blame. no role to play or no responsibility to be careful in food selection? These are inconvenient questions no body wants to answer because every body is guilty of not doing what he or she is supposed to be doing, trying to pass on the buck to others!

Recently there has been serious accusation regarding the role played by the flavor companies in promoting unhealthy foods, making them too attractive to be shunned! With a fair degree of transparency already in place under the labeling provision, a literate consumer has all the tools available to discriminate between bad and good foods and if this power is not exercised judiciously who is responsible for the consequences of this folly? It is true that there are a sizable number of manufacturers who indulge in unethical practices in labeling correctly but the existing mechanism of taking them to task is well designed, at least on paper. This is an area where industry must introspect and sooner they practice transparency in labeling and marketing, better it will be for improving their image among the consumers. Unless confidence on the industry to play a fair game is generated this slanging war will go on and on perpetually. The role of scientific community is not above board in this murky blame game because there is practically no unanimity on any scientific aspect relating to food quality, safety, nutrition, healthfulness and acceptability. There are millions of publications emerging every year on different aspects of food but there are controversies galore with practically no unanimity on any issue! How can a consumer understand these matters steeped in technical terms and what the industry can do in using the information correctly? Though WHO and FAO are in the forefront in unifying and synchronizing standards of food safety, each country has the liberty to use or ignore them depending on its economic interests, ignoring the impact on the consumer.     

In an interesting debate recently some one asked why the industry has to make food taste so good, tempting the consumer to over eat! The insinuation is probably directed at some of the major flavor manufacturing companies who are being blamed for seducing the food processing industry to make the food products more and more flavorful and tasty. How can any critic blame that there is an unholy nexus between the flavor industry and the food manufacturers for a high degree of secrecy shrouding their activities? After all secrecy is a part of industrial culture in a fiercely competitive market place and there is no place for any charitable considerations. Added to this, provocative statements like "flavors are so stimulating, they hijack our brain." do not help to douse the passion evident in the arguments of critics blaming the flavor industry. Food manufacturers are blamed for manipulating the product recipes by "dumping" ingredients like sugar, fat and salt which are supposed to stimulate appetite setting in motion a cycle of desire and consumption" among the consumers leading to a society of over eaters! Advocating transparency will have to be tempered with the fact the it should not try to destroy the industry and this is where moderation is called for. While industry can do better by being more transparent without affecting their economic interests too much, consumers cannot be over aggressive in seeking information that cannot be placed in the public domain and only way this can be done is through better and more effective communication between them. 

As obesity, food safety and chemicals in foods constitute some of the most pressing issues of concern to the consumers as well as the policy makers in the government, industry cannot sweep them under the carpet and if business environment is to improve, these issues must be adopted as those of the industry also. Future depends on the success of food industry in integrating these issues into their business philosophy. 


Friday, August 17, 2012


Food industry is supposed to be providing to the consumer foods that can satisfy both their nutritional as well as culinary satisfaction. Whether the current day food manufacturing sector has been able to satisfy both the above criteria is a subject matter of incessant controversy. A substantial segment of the consumers feel that this industry is more obsessed with protecting its economic interests rather than the interests of the consumer with the result that responsibility for most of the modern day health disorders has been laid at the door steps of the industry. Whether it is CVD, Diabetes, Blood pressure, Kidney disorders or Obesity a substantial segment of the society blames the industry for making and marketing unhealthy foods to the unsuspecting consumer. Though food industry will have to take a large part of the blame for this sorry situation, the government as well as the consumer also have contributed to this mess in their own way. While the regulatory agencies under the government control can be found guilty of not exercising its power of disciplining the industry, consumers must be faulted for not choosing the right food and not following an active life style required to maintain good health.

Sugar including HFCS, fat including the trans fats and salt are the common enemies targeted as villains of the peace when role of food on good health is considered. Why these three constituents in the food should become villains though they were part of the foods consumed for ages is mired in controversies defying a consensus among the pundits of health. It is true that HCFS and trans fats are human creation and therefore their exact role needs to be elucidated through critical and reliable human studies but organizing such studies is fraught with lot of logistical difficulties at the ground level. The empirical calculation that as long as the calorie intake is balanced with expenditure and a diet of varied components is consumed regularly, one need not fear about health deterioration may require a revisit if the large scale use of food additives used by the processors, contaminants that creep into the food during handling and processing, faulty design of products with low fiber and depleted nutrients and unsafe processing practices are taken into consideration. Modern day foods are largely based on too much sugar, refined grains devoid of almost all nutrients, high salt levels, high fat content, all necessary to increase palatability which happens to be the driving force for successful marketing. 

It was not long ago that the industry came up with food supplements and nutraceuticals to overwhelm the consumer who started to worry about the ill effects of over processed foods and success was almost instant. To day this specialized segment of the industry offers a wide range of products,  most of which are considered neither a food nor a pharmaceutical product and the new industry is worth about $ 200 billion world wide, according to one estimate! Ideally for business, food processing makes an easy choice but progressive tightening of safety regulations and increasing criticism from the consumers make it difficult to meet consumer aspirations. Here is where the food supplements and nutraceuticals fit the bill. This is also true for pharmaceutical industry which is a cost intensive sector besides being tightly controlled universally. Almost all products being churned out by this new avatar of the industry such as probiotics, antioxidants, etc are able to make claims on one count or the other regarding their effectiveness on improving health or some medical benefits or preventing many diseases. Unfortunately these foods have not been subjected to any meaningful clinical research for proving the claims. Many of these products are targeted at young or old people with claims of keeping one younger, fitter and slimmer, often offering quick-fix solutions to protecting health. In India there are a few products that blatantly boast of growing taller, sharper, smarter, more healthy, quick energy restoration etc though very little clinical evidence is offered in support. Enrolling some obscure "scientists", obviously mercenaries in nature, in visual promotions gives the claims some respectability. It is a tragedy that government of the day remains a mute spectator to this day light fraud!        

According to some observers the nutraceutical and health food industry is a "placebo" driven business with little margins and therefore it cannot invest too much on clinical research in supportv of its varied claims.  Consumers eager to buy products which are fortified with one or more nutrients or well being ingredients, enhanced and enriched and their ready willingness to buy them, provides the platform for the health food industry to exploit this weakness for enriching itself! There is a famous saying that multi vitamins only improve the "health" of the industry! Probably this may be the real truth in the case of health food industry also. It is the eternal hope of the consumers who are hooked on to these products by high pressure promotional efforts of the industry, that ensures phenomenal growth by many major players in this sector. This situation cannot be allowed to continue knowing well that consumers are being taken for a ride by this industry with no regulatory agencies doing any thing to curb their activities. Probably it is time consumer activists take up cudgels on behalf of millions of unsuspecting consumers and force the governments in different countries as well as international agencies involved in health related developments to bring in some sanity in the form of evolving a regulatory environment to protect the interest of the consumer. The fact that these products do not harm the consumer though the claims made are unsustainable, cannot be an excuse to delay action in this area any more.     


Monday, August 6, 2012


Who does not like a serving of an ice cream, any where, any time of the day? But the role of ice cream, with its high fat content and high sugar levels, in the deteriorating health situation among a large segment of the population is coming under the scanner of health pundits and policy makers. Paradoxically the prevailing laws in many countries do not permit labeling of any product as ice cream unless it contains a minimum amount of butter fat and sugar, both dangerous food ingredients which are fore runners of many modern day health disorders. What is the logic behind such a practice followed by many countries? Probably the over riding concern on the part of food standards authorities was to protect the quality and safeguard the consumers from economic malpractices, during early years of development of food industry when negative impacts of fat and sugar were not well known. Realization of the dangers posed by these health debilitating components which are often over consumed has spawned development of many ice cream like products, looking and tasting like them and these alternative options are given names like frozen yogurt, frozen custard, frozen desserts, gelato etc with lower levels of fat and sugar.

Ice cream is a traditional product based on natural milk solids, cream, sugars and emulsifiers and the typical texture associated with these products is achieved through beating air into the matrix at low temperatures. The typical mouth feel in traditional products cannot be attained without a minimum quantity of fat. Modern developments have made it possible to prepare products almost similar to traditional ice cream products using a variety of ingredients and additives, mimicking fat, approved for food use and it is even possible to make reasonably good ice cream like preparations with no milk or cream or sugar. Soy based or vegetable oil based or non-nutritive sweetener based frozen preparations are in the market challenging the over whelming position hitherto enjoyed by  the traditional ice cream products. This has made it possible to make such products within the reach of health compromised people for whom the standard ice cream is a taboo. These developments are mutually beneficial to both the consumers as well as the industry. If the frozen dessert industry has been able to clock consistent growth during the last one decade, it was possible entirely due to the ability of the industry to develop such products acceptable to consumers like weight watchers, diabetics, lactose intolerant people, obesity victims etc.

The role of "overrun" operation in the process of ice cream making is some what critical in flavor release during eating and since traditional ice cream products are light because of the overrun to the extent of 120-150%, any flavor incorporated gets diluted. This is in contrast to other frozen products like Kulfi of India, or Gelato of Italy or Sorbet and Sherbet products or Popsicles which give stronger flavor perception and dense textural experience. Overrun also influences the melting characteristics of frozen desserts and higher the over run faster will be the melting of the product. The rich sugar content in ice cream does have an adverse effect on dental health and traditional ice cream products with high overrun are washed down faster compared to dense products like Kulfi. Probably the US ice cream industry must have realized this fact while restricting the sugar content to less than 16% while Gelato products contain 16-24% sugar. On the other hand Gelato has significantly less fat, generally about 4-8%. 

Gelateria, which sell Gelato in stead of traditional ice cream products as in ice cream parlors, are very popular in Europe though there are Gelato parlors in the US also. Those used to Gelato swear by it and reasons for such a preference are many as illustrated above. Most important is the characteristic mouth feel associated with Gelato which is contributed by the relatively low speed at which the blend is churned incorporating much less air in the process and significantly warmer temperatures around 10F at which they are served. The product when consumed is some what slushy unlike the freeze hardened ice creams giving a softer mouth feel liked by many consumers.     

Beside the ice cream and Gelato, products like Sorbet, frozen yogurts, Popsicles and others are also popular, though their market share is some what limited. There are also frozen milk preparations which are natural and health puritans prefer such products over commercial ones though it is difficult to prevent crystallization of water component giving a crunchy mouth feel. Frozen yogurts, an alternative offered by the dessert food industry claims superior nutritive value because of the presence probiotics in them. Lactic acid bacteria to the extent of 100 million cells per gm ought to be included for certified frozen yogurts. Indian kulfi is a classical example of a frozen milk based dessert which has a totally different eating experience. While ice cream and gelato are supposed to melt in the mouth, kulfi will have to be literally bitten with teeth for melting in the mouth before swallowing. Because it is made from evaporated, sweetened milk kulfi has a distinct caramelization flavor besides higher levels of protein and lactose both imparting their own distinct taste. Comparing the health attributes among these products may be some what far fetched because they are consumed in smaller quantities and for just enjoying the eating experience. But children not inclined to drink milk may have to be encouraged to eat ice cream and similar products to ensure adequate intake of milk solids so necessary for health, especially for bones and teeth. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Prevalence of Goiter precipitated by iodine deficiency in many parts of the world was the driving force behind compulsory iodization of this vital food ingredient universally. As is well known iodine is a constituent of the thyroid hormones, secreted by the Thyroid gland and naturally insufficient intake of this trace mineral can precipitate many metabolic abnormalities besides enlargement of the gland itself. Triodothyronine, (T3) and Thyroxine(T4) are synthesized in the body by incorporating 3 and 4 molecules of iodine respectively into the precursor and the concentration of these hormones influences the metabolic rate in the body. Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and autoimmune thyroditis are all manifestations of low or high iodine intake in the humans. It is some what difficult to precisely conclude whether one is having iodine deficiency or not and as any deficiency can have serious consequence on the health of human beings, especially children, universal iodization of salt is being promoted in almost all countries, hoping that thyroid related health disorders are totally eliminated. 

Global statistics, assuming they are reliable tell a scary story regarding the prevalence of iodine deficiency in this world. 1.6 billion people including 50 million young children and 280 million school going children are supposed to be affected by iodine deficiency of different degree. As thyroid gland has a strong influence in the development of brain the impact of iodine deficiency, especially among children, if not treated can be mind boggling. This is the reason why universal iodization is considered the most effective health related intervention in all countries. Generally a daily intake of 150-200 mcg (microgram) of iodine is considered optimum for an adult while pregnant women and breast feeding mothers may need some what higher levels of intake. It is further claimed that excess iodine intake, even as high as 10 times the optimum, might not do any harm and therefore iodization of a daily diet ingredient like salt is considered very safe. There are many foods containing significant concentration of iodine and deficiency of iodine among population consuming these foods in abundance  may be rare. 

Hyperthyroidism causes a general slowdown of the metabolism in the body as the calorie burning is dramatically affected creating a feeling of sluggishness. This in turn is supposed to promote putting on excess weight through fat deposits and increased water retention. Severe iodine deficiency can also cause brain disorders and gland enlargement while moderate deficiency can still show some of the above adverse effects. Excess iodine is reported to be also capable of manifesting symptoms same as hypothyroidism besides auto immune thyroditis resulting in infiltration of thyroid gland by lymphocytes blocking the ability of the gland to make the hormone. Though estimating the levels of TSH3 and TSH4 hormones in the blood is often used as testing a procedure to detect any abnormalities in thyroid activity, a positive result need not  be a true indication of iodine deficiency and further testing also needs to be done if any symptoms associated with iodine deficiency still persists.

It may be recalled that the World Summit for Children in 1990 set a goal of 100% coverage of people through universal salt iodization program but till 2000 only 25% of the population was covered increasing to 66% by 2006 and to day more than 85% world population is covered by this unique endeavor of the global community. Even in India which saw a set back when ban on sale of uniodized salt was lifted in 2000, iodine deficiency increased dramatically among the population and fortunately better sense prevailed on the government which reintroduced the ban in 2005. In most states in India, latest survey seems to be indicating that 65% to 80% of the people have access to iodized salt. However no data is available regarding the prevalence iodine deficiency though it can be surmised that moderate to mild deficiency must be existing in the country. As massive urine testing of the people for excreted iodine has to be done to make any meaningful estimate of iodine deficient population, there is no way this could be done with meager facilities available in the country. Depending on any policy that bars sale of normal salt without iodization may not be the surest way of ensuring 100% coverage because in many rural areas salt is sold in loose without packing which is not fortified by iodine. 

A country like Switzerland started its salt iodization program as early as 1952 mandating to contain 3.75 mg per kg and bringing it up to 20 mg per kg in 1998. Almost all countries now use this as bench mark standard for salt iodization but in the US and Canada iodized salt contains 77 ppm  or 77 mg per kg iodine and in many countries salt intake through industrially processed and home cooked foods can be about 8-12 gm per day which corresponds to an iodine intake of 160-240 mcg from salt alone. Added to this consumption of sea foods further increases iodine availability. Sea vegetables like Kelp, Arame, Hiziki, Kombu, wakame are rich sources of iodine, varying in levels 500 to 2000 mcg per serving while Cranberry, yogurt, Milk provide about 55 to 400 mcg per serving. There fore iodine deficiency cannot be a critical factor in these countries. Is it possible that population consuming sea vegetables as in China, Japan and other East Asian countries do not have modern diseases that haunt the western world to the same extent because of [plenty of iodine contained in their diet?  No report is available to confirm or repudiate this theory so far.

One of the imponderable factors that may influence iodine status in people is the extent of industry processed foods consumed and in this respect population in countries like the US have an advantage as more than 80% of foods consumed by an average family comes from out side their home. Any effort to to curb salt consumption can be attempted through the industry and that is what is happening in these countries where food sector is continuously being pressured to reduce salt in processed products and restaurant preparations. But this strategy may not work if processed food consumption by a family is low. What effect any reduction in salt intake will have on iodine status of the population? With salt reduction campaigns becoming more and more aggressive, there is a perceptible change in industrialized nations, the salt intake showing a downward slide. Also reported is slight increase in iodine deficiency population in countries like the US, probably consequent to the attempts to lower the salt intake. Under such a situation is there a case to increase the level of iodine in salt appropriately to meet body's demand for iodine through a lesser intake of salt? Probably yes as there does not appear to be any adverse effect even if the iodine intake is more than that required by the body. But in Canada and the US the fortification levels are comparatively high and there may not be any pressing reason to such a mid course correction. An upper limit of 1100 mcg of iodine has been determined to be tolerant to humans and hence no harm is going to be done by keeping higher levels of iodine in salts consumed by US population. A level of 100-200 mcg of iodine in the urine is considered an indication of adequate iodine intake while above 299 mcg it may be manifestation of excess intake. Similarly values up to 100 mcg can be interpreted as iodine deficiency sever, to mild depending on the actual test figures on individuals.