Marginalia, no.251

Who marvels at a goiter in the Alps?

~ Juvenal

People in the Alps used to be famous for goiters, the result of too little iodine in the soil. In his final essay Montaigne quotes Juvenal’s line – not because he suffered from goiter, but because he suffered from kidney stones. Montaigne meant that he wasn’t surprised at getting sick because that’s just what happens to our sort of creature. The Swiss started the fashion for iodized salt in 1922, but here in the U.S. things were still a little Alpish into the late ‘70s. As children we were always seeing old ladies with goiters at the local grocery store.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Marginalia, no.251

  1. My grandmother had a goiter. As a kid I didn’t know what it was, thought all old people grew them.

    For years I’ve been reading Montaigne, but am only about halfway through the essays. Who knows if I would ever get to his remarks on goiters at this rate!

  2. Ian Wolcott

    I read that switching to iodized salt only works as an effective treatment for goiter if you haven’t had the goiter for too long already.

    There are a handful of Montaigne’s essays in Books II and III that I haven’t read yet, but I do recommend skipping ahead and reading that final essay. Not that it includes much about goiters.

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