Salt is a necessary, prevalent, and important part of history. For food specifically, it adds a LOT of flavor. It helps your body retain water when you're sweating heavily (hence the high amount of sodium in sports drinks), and it was even used as currency during early history.

But most importantly, salt is a necessary mineral for human health. In the U.S., in the early 20th century, Michigan was dealing with an outbreak of goiters, due to a deficiency in iodine. Thus... Iodized Salt was created.

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Iodized salt isn't a new concept. In fact, it naturally occurs in many areas around the world. In the 1830s, French chemist Jean Baptiste Boussingault discovered that the prevalence of goitres was significantly higher in areas that did NOT have naturally occurring iodized salt.

"He recommended the distribution of naturally iodized salt for public consumption. However, there were attempts to implement iodine prophylaxis in the U.S., Switzerland, France, and other areas. This was not widely adopted until many decades later due to the expense and the occurrence of iodine-induced hyperthyroidism... Iodine supplementation, primarily through the fortification of table salt, did not begin until the early 1920s, and occurred initially in Switzerland and the U.S."

In fact, in the U.S., there was a major iodine deficiency developing in the Great Lakes area. Between 30% and 70% of children had clinically apparent goiters, which is a swelling of the thyroid glands in the neck, near the throat.

During World War I, a Michigan Physician, Simon Levin, noticed that 30% of registrants for the military had goiters, which disqualified them from the military. Michigan was called the epicenter of the "goiter belt," and had been severely iodine deficient.


So, the U.S. adopted a Swiss practice of adding iodine to the salt supply. The first batch of iodized salt hit shelves in Michigan on May 1st, 1924, and within a couple of years, goiter cases significantly declined.

Other Effects of Iodized Salt

What's even better, is a 2017 study showed that when the U.S. introduced iodized salt, not only did goiters go down, but U.S. intelligence went up for nearly a quarter of the population!

In areas that were the most iodine deficient (the goiter belt), the Flynn Effect showed "roughly one decade's worth of the upward trend in IQ in the United States."

"A 2018 paper found that the nationwide distribution of iodine-fortified salt increased incomes by 11%, labor force participation by 0.68 percentage points, and full-time work by 0.9 percentage points... These impacts were largely driven by changes in the economic outcomes of young women. In later adulthood, both men and women had higher family incomes due to iodization."

So, we can thank Michigan for not only making iodized salt an important part of American food but also for raising the IQ levels across the previously-known goiter belt... though, some areas might need a little extra iodine in the supply.

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