Iodine and the Renaissance final

A literary take on history with an endocrine twist!

Endocrinologists Dr Sanjay Kalra et al., on a lighter vein, have suggested in the Nov-Dec 2014 issue of the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism a provocative iodine hypothesis to help explain the catalyst behind Europe's march to global dominance somewhere between the years 1000 and 1500 AD.

The hypothesis is based on the fact that Iodine, obtained from sea food and salt, is known to be an essential micronutrient for thyroid glands function and brain development. It hypothesis on the fact that natural salt, a precious and expensive spice in ancient Europe, was imported as rock salt from Asia and was available to only a few. Communities residing in mountainous and hilly terrains often suffered from endemic iodine deficiency which is often associated with altered cognitive function. It assumes that Early Europe was probably an iodine‑ deficient environment and thus inhabited by an intellectually challenged population displaying signs of cretinism. The hypothesis observes that the opening of trade routes with Asia and Africa would have increased consumption of iodine rich sea food thereby concluding that the result was a reduction in cognitive dysfunction and an increase in stimulating intellectual thought resulting in a European awakening.

The iodine hypothesis is robust enough to withstand scrutiny and to encourage further scholarly research to address this question: Does Europe owe its eminence, at least in part, to biological or even endocrine, factors?

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