THE IODINE FACTOR IN HEALTH AND EVOLUTION*

Authors

  • Dr. JEROME E. DOBSON

    Search for more papers by this author
    • 1

      Dr. Dobson is a member of the senior development staff at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831–6237.


  • *

    I wish to express my gratitude to Jeffrey R. Dobson, who first suggested iodine as a factor that distinguishes coastal populations from inland ones, contributed to the discussion and research on Neandertals and cretinism, and visited the Institute of Pathology in Zurich to acquire records in the Galler Collection. This article has benefited from reviews and comments by him and by William Bass, Lewis Binford, Karl Butzer, Boyd Eaton, Stephen Jay Gould, Donald Jones, Andrew Kramer, and John Stanbury. Gretchen Worden, of the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, and Marian Loercher, of the Institute of Pathology, Museum of Natural History in Basel, graciously assisted with the Galler and Hyrtl Collections. I thank Phillip Coleman, Daniel Pack, Margaret Setser, and Julia Spradling for their research and cartographic assistance, the Office of Laboratory Directed Research, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, for exploratory funding, and Richard C. Durfee of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for his help and support.

Abstract

ABSTRACT. Iodine is essential for modern humans and may have been essential for Neandertals as well. Today about 30 percent of the world's population is at risk of iodine deficiency disorders (idd), 750 million people suffer from goiter, 43 million have idd-related brain damage and mental retardation, and 5.7 million are afflicted by cretinism, the most severe form of idd. Distinctive Neandertal skeletal traits are identical to those of modern humans who suffer from cretinism. Cro-Magnon Venus figurines also exhibit distinctive traits associated with cretinism among modern humans. This new evidence, coupled with recent mitochondrial dna findings, suggests that a single genetic alteration, which improved the ability of the thyroid gland to extract and utilize iodine, may account for differences between Neandertals and modern humans. Late Pleistocene human evolution, consequently, may be explained by several alternative interpretations involving iodine pathology and/or biological adaptation. Speciation may have resulted from the geographical isolation of inland populations.

Ancillary