Expert Nutrition

Iodine (I)

Iodine was one of the first trace elements to be identified as essential. With about 70 -80% of iodine concentrated in the thyroid gland in was discovered in the 1920’s that iodine was an integral part of the thyroid hormone T4 and soon after T3. These thyroid hormones are essential for normal growth, maturation, thermoregulation and metabolism.

The iodine content of most foods is low and can be affected by soil, irrigation and fertilisers. Unlike most other essential minerals iodine in the form of iodide salts is almost completely absorbed and organic forms and animal products have less bioavailability. The best known sources of iodine include seafood, kelp, milk and foods grown in iodine rich soils.

Iodine deficiency results in a range of conditions collectively known as ‘iodine deficiency disorders’ including an overgrown thyroid or goitre and in severe cases can also lead to hypothyroidism and impaired mental and physical development. During pregnancy iodine deficiency can have major negative effects on the foetus, such as stillbirth, congenital abnormalities and increased perinatal and infant mortality. Given the negative implications of iodine deficiency during pregnancy the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia recommend a higher intake of iodine during pregnancy and throughout lactation.

To maintain optimal health there is a general consensus among health professionals that in areas where soils lack iodine the use of supplements or iodised salt may be beneficial.

1. National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Department of Health and Ageing; 2006, pp 181-185.
2. Wahlqvist, M.L., et al. Australia and New Zealand: Food and Nutrition. 2nd Ed. Allen and Unwin, Sydney; 2002, pp 275.
3. Stanton R. Foods that harm, foods that heal: An A-Z guide to safe and healthy eating. Readers Digest; 2006, pp 256-261.

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