Iodine

When you think of important minerals, what is the first to spring to mind? Calcium? Iron? One mineral that is often neglected is Iodine.

What is Iodine?

Iodine is needed to support your thyroid. It is specifically important for the production of thyroid hormone which helps to support our metabolism, growth and development and development of a baby’s brain during pregnancy and early life.

Here in the UK, research has shown there is a mild deficiency amongst girls and women. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), adults require 150mcg per day while pregnant and breastfeeding women require 200mcg.

What are the risks of Iodine Deficiency?

A deficiency over a long period of time can mean that the thyroid has to work harder to be able to produce the adequate amounts of thyroid hormone in the blood. Have you ever seen someone with a large lump in their throat? This is a goitre. It is caused by the thyroid increasing in size to trap Iodine.

32558857 - goiter

Other risks include:

  • Thyroid disease, particularly Hypothyroidism (symptoms include weight gain, fatigue and muscle aches)
  • Lowered brain development in babies
  • Pregnancy complications (e.g. miscarriage and infertility)

How do I get more Iodine in my diet?

Iodine is found in a number of different foods. In this week’s episode of Trust Me: I’m a Doctor, Dr Michael Mosley teamed up with Dr Emilie Combert from the University of Glasgow to conduct an experiment to see what is the best source of Iodine. Three groups of volunteers ate either milk, white fish or seaweed. These are the most known sources of Iodine. They then collected their urine over the next 36 hours to be tested to see how much Iodine is extracted. The results showed that while all three foods are good sources of Iodine, our bodies seem more capable of extracting more Iodine from white fish and milk compared to seaweed.

Other sources include:

  • “Iodised” salt (table salt with added Iodine)
  • Other dairy products (yoghurt and cheese)
  • Other types of fish and shellfish (haddock and scampi)
  • Eggs
  • Meat/poultry
  • Bread
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Navy beans

Of course, the levels of Iodine in each food differs so some foods are higher than others.

Is there a risk of too much Iodine?

Getting too much Iodine in the diet can be just as bad as not getting enough. Too much Iodine can cause damage to the thyroid which may result in some of the same problems caused by Iodine deficiency.

If you are unsure about your Iodine levels, get them tested by a GP or Nutritionist and seek their advice on how much you should be having and how best to get it.