Who we call 'idiot' today was often referred to in earlier times as 'cretin' (derived from the French 'crétin'). People who suffered from cretinism were found to be particularly severe with dwarfism, a deformed nose, a thick tongue, and in some cases also marked nonsense.
Cretinism, by definition, is a developmental disorder characterized by a lack of thyroid hormones. Cretinism is eradicated today thanks to medical success and treatment in industrialized countries. Hormone level examinations in newborns are part of everyday routine in Germany. If hypothyroidism is diagnosed, immediate therapy is required to prevent irreversible damage to the brain.
This so-called endemic cretinism, which can be caused by an iodine deficiency of pregnant women, is already triggered in the womb. Regular and timely intake of thyroid hormones in tablet form prevent the disease and allow a normal development of the child.
Goiter and cretinism in iodine deficient areas
The connection between goiter, cretinism and nutrition has been found particularly frequently in iodine-deficient areas, eg in southern Germany. Even in the 19th century, the severity of this disease was noticeable even among residents of Swiss high alpine regions. It is said that 90 percent of the population suffered from goiter and up to 2 percent from cretinism.
This accumulation was even reflected in painting as a so-called 'alpine secretin'. Pioneering character in the control had the measure prescribed from the beginning of the 20th century in Switzerland to use iodized salt. A procedure that has found worldwide echo in the practice of healthy food preparation.