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March 28, 2012 at 4:35 PMComments: 2 Faves: 1

Napoleon's loss can be your gain!

By Rex More Blogs by This Author

In 1811, Napoleon was fighting a war that was not going well. He was deep into the battle, and his supply of gunpowder was running out. So, Napoleon set his chemists, most notably Bernard Courtois, to find a new source of Saltpeter (potassium nitrate), because they were out of willow wood, the preferred source. So, Courtois started burning dried seaweed, which was abundant off the coast of Normandy. This worked great as a gunpowder, but it left a residue of sulfur that they needed to clean out of the vats. When Courtois used too much sulfuric acid to clean the sulfur, all of a sudden there was a violet plume of smoke and crystallization on the metal. He of course was fighting a war so had no time to figure out what it was. So he handed it off and another chemist named it Iodine. Dr. Jean Francois Condet later tested it and found that it reduced goitres (enlarged thyroids).

This leads us to 1924, when David Murray Cowie, a professor at the University of Michigan, led the U.S. to add sodium iodide to table salt. It was then sold commercially as iodized salt in Michigan, the area in America that has the no iodine in the ground. At this point, Iodine became part of everyone's daily intake, hopefully keeping the goitres down.

So, is the goitre the only thing that iodine helps? Well, insufficient iodine is a serious threat to causing brain damage on the earth. Children with an iodine deficiency can suffer from stunted growth, mental retardation and problems in movement, speech or hearing. Pregnant women with iodine deficiency risk miscarriage, stillbirth and mental retardation in the baby. Even mild iodine deficiency can hamper the growth of the brain of children, reduce IQ, and cause learning disabilities.

Aren't you glad that Napoleon ran out of gunpowder, so that he would have to start burning kelp to find more?

Make sure that you are getting enough iodine, since your body does not produce it. It may be the reason you are having thyroid problems. Brown Kelp is the best natural place to find quantities of iodine, but it can also be found in cod, milk, shrimp, and eggs.

Napoleon ultimately lost that war, but we can win the war against insufficient iodine!


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  • So, if you're eating vegetable grown NOT in MI, do they get enough Iodine to pass on to us?

  • sprouty - not enough to notice. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the highest amount of iodine in any vegetable is in canned cream corn at 14mcg per serving, and then also dried prunes at 13mcg per serving, followed by boiled Lima beans which has 8mcg per serving, and green peas and bananas come in at 3mcg per serving. This is really not enough, (at most 9% daily value), and just is not a good source of iodine. The trouble is that people around the Great Lakes were supplementing their diet with fish from the lakes, but not getting any iodine from them. Which, along with milk, bread, and eggs, all of which do not have any iodine from the Great Lakes area, meant that people were experiencing goitre. So, away from the Great Lakes area, all of those products, along with the vegetables, have the needed amount of iodine to keep thyroid in check.

    Great question!

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