Everything You Need to Know About Iodine
Iodine Defined: Why You Need the Nutrient and Why Iodine Deficiency Can Be Harmful
When the average American hears the word iodine, they often think of salt. And that’s no surprise, considering more than 90 percent of U.S. households use iodized salt to help boost the flavor of their food. () Indeed, most food manufacturers have been participating in the voluntary program of adding iodine to table salt since the 1920s, to help correct iodine deficiencies. (2)Considering many Americans eat too muchsalt, how can a person end up developing an iodine deficiency? The answer may surprise you.
Here, take a deep dive into what the element is, why you need it, and what can happen if you don’t get enough.
What Is Iodine Exactly and Where Is It Found?
Iodine is a trace element that’s found in food, added to various foods, or is available in supplement form. It makes up our thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which play a role in protein manufacturing, the overall function of our metabolism, and the conversion to usable bodily substances. (3,4)
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Why You Need Iodine and What It Does for Your Health
In utero and in infancy, iodine plays an important role in the development of your central nervous and skeletal systems. (2) How much iodine breast-fed babies receive depends on how much their moms take in. You can check the amount of iodine in your baby’s formula if he or she is formula-fed, but rest assured that most commercially available formulas in the United States contain enough of the element. ()
How Much Iodine Do You Need? The Age-Based Recommendations
Iodine deficiency is most catastrophic to the developing brain. Therefore, requirements in pregnancy and lactation are much higher. (4) The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for iodine are: (4)
- Birth to 6 months: 110 micrograms (mcg) *
- 7 to 12 months: 130mcg *
- 1 to 3 years: 90mcg
- 4 to 8 years: 90mcg
- 9 to 13 years: 120mcg
- 14 to 18 years: 150mcg
- 19 years and older: 150mcg
- Pregnancy: 220mcg
- Lactation: 290mcg
*Adequate Intake (AI)
RDAs are set to show the amount required to meet the needs of 97 to 98 percent of healthy people.
When there’s not strong enough evidence to show what the RDA is for a certain nutrient, AI is offered instead as an estimate for what amount of the nutrient, mineral, or element is enough. (6)
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What Are the Best Food Sources of Iodine?
Iodine content in food varies by soil content, fertilizers, and irrigation. Seafood is higher in iodine due to the content of ocean waters and can vary by area. Processed foods are higher due to additives in processing.
The daily value (DV) for iodine is 150 mcg for people ages 4 and older. (5) Any foods providing 20 percent or more of iodine are considered good sources of the element.
Following are some foods that are high in iodine: (5)
- Seaweed, whole or sheet (1 g): 16 to 2984mcg (between 11 and 1,989 percent DV, depending on the water source)
- Baked cod (3 oz): 99mcg (66 percent DV)
- Low-fat, plain yogurt (1 cup): 75mcg (50 percent DV)
- Iodized salt (¼ teaspoon): 71mcg (47 percent DV)
- Medium white potato with skin: 60mcg (40 percent DV)
- Reduced-fat milk (1 cup): 56mcg (37 percent DV)
- Fish sticks (3 oz):54mcg (36 percent DV)
- Enriched white bread (2 slices): 45mcg (30 percent DV)
- Shrimp (3 oz):35mcg (23 percent DV)
- Chocolate ice cream (½ cup):30mcg (20 percent DV)
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Iodine Deficiency: Health Risks, Who’s at Risk, and Symptoms of Deficiency
Iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism, but iodine excess can cause it as well.
In the U.S. iodine deficiency has historically been low, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). But some specific folks might be at a higher risk. (1)
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Pregnant and Nursing Women
Pregnant and nursing mothers have higher iodine needs due to the function of iodine on a developing fetus, brain development, and growth of the baby. (5) Pregnant women should get at least 220 mcg per day.
You might try a fad diet to lose weight, but sometimes these eating approaches can pose unintended consequences. Whether you are eliminating a food or food groups for the goal of better health, to control a food allergy, or to manage a medical condition, diets with broad-stroke food group eliminations require a closer look.
As mentioned earlier, foods abundant in iodine are dairy, grains, seafood, and iodized salt. People following dairy-free, vegan, “clean,” or paleo diets may be at a higher risk of iodine deficiency. (8,9) Although the typical American diet is plentiful in salt, you may unintentionally develop a deficiency if you dramatically reduce your salt intake for health reasons like high blood pressure (hypertension) or heart disease.
Also important to note is not all salt, including pink Himalayan salt, is iodized. Be sure to work with a registered dietitian to make sure you’re getting enough of the element in your diet if you think you may be at risk of a deficiency, according to an article published in theAmerican Journal of Hypertension. (10)
Individuals With Other Nutrient Deficiencies
Other nutrient deficiencies, such as iron, selenium, vitamin A, and possibly even zinc, may impact iodine nutrition and thyroid function, according to a paper published in the journalBest Practice &ResearchClinicalEndocrinology&Metabolism.(11)
EnlargedThyroidGland (Goiter)Symptomsofagoiterincludeswellingoftheneckwherethethyroidislocated;troubleswallowingorbreathing;andchoking(especiallywhilelyingdown).(15) Ifyoususpectagoiter,contactyourdoctorandrequestaphysicalassessment.Ifiodinedeficiencyissuspected,youcanaskyourdoctortoruna24-hoururineiodinetestforaproperdiagnosis.(16)
A:Yes.Iodineisanessentialmineralrequiredforbasicmetabolichealth,andisevenmoreimportantinfetuses,infants,andchildrenforcognitivedevelopmentandgrowth.Iodinecannotbeformedinthebody; we must take it in. (5)
Q: Is it safe to put iodine on your skin?
A:For most people, topical iodine is safe. For some, though, it may cause skin rash, so be careful and test a very small area first to make sure you do not have a negative reaction. Keep in mind that topical iodine is absorbed into the system, so stay within recommended amounts. (7)
Q: What foods contain iodine naturally?
A:Foods that contain iodine include iodized salt, dairy (through sanitation practices), seafood, and grains. (7)
Q: What are the symptoms of iodine deficiency?
A:Symptoms of iodine deficiency vary. They could range from fatigue, depression, weight gain, and constipation (hypothyroid), to manifestations of a goiter, such as enlarged thyroid, and trouble breathing and swallowing, especially when lying down.
Video: Is Using Iodine Safe for your Thyroid?
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