iodine; iodised; thyroid; hormones; diet; salt; bread;
Iodine is a mineral needed by the body in small amounts. The thyroid, a small butterfly shaped gland in the neck, needs iodine to produce hormones. These hormones have an important role in regulating our metabolism. Thyroid hormones also help regulate physical and mental development especially in children and babies, including babies before they are born.
Iodine is not stored in the body, so we need to have foods that contain iodine in our diet. Iodine is in many foods, as it is found in soil and water. Soil and water levels vary in different parts of the country and this means the amount of iodine in food can vary. In some parts of Australia iodine levels in soil and water are low, so people have low levels of iodine in their bodies.
How can I get iodine in my diet?
Ocean fish and seaweed are the best sources of iodine. Eggs and dairy foods are good sources but contain smaller amounts. 'Iodised salt' is regular table salt that has iodine added. This is a good source of iodine, but people should use salt in moderation.
To increase your iodine intake:
- choose 2-3 serves of ocean fish each week
- include eggs and dairy food in your diet each day
- any salt used in cooking or on foods should be 'iodised salt'
- eat iodised bread.
What is mandatory iodine fortification?
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has developed a mandatory iodine fortification regulation to help address iodine deficiency across most of the population. This involves the replacement of non-iodised salt with iodised salt in all bread. From October 2009, most bread in Australia and New Zealand now contains added iodine. Iodised salt is not permitted in organic foods; therefore organic bread will not contain iodised salt
If you don't eat bread then you will not gain the benefits of iodine fortification. It is very important that you regularly include foods that contain iodine (listed earlier) to boost your iodine intake.
Shouldn't we be eating less salt?
Salt can contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension) and there are efforts globally to encourage people to eat less salt. The mandatory iodine fortification regulation requires the replacement of the existing salt in bread with iodised salt not adding more salt. This is preferable to people adding extra iodised salt to their food.
Will pregnant and breastfeeding women get enough iodine?
Although mandatory iodine fortification does provide sufficient amounts of iodine to the general population, for many pregnant and breastfeeding women it does not fully meet their much greater needs. Pregnant and breastfeeding women may need iodine supplements. Iodine is especially important for the unborn baby. All women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering becoming pregnant should ask their doctor, midwife or dietitian for advice on their individual dietary needs.
Note: although it is very important for pregnant women to get enough iodine for them and their baby it is also important that they follow the recommendations regarding fish consumption during pregnancy. See 'Mercury in fish'. http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=438&np=460&id=2769#11
Better Health Channel 'Iodine explained'
Dietitians Association of Australia ‘Iodine'
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand 'Mandatory Iodine Fortification'
Nutrition Australia 'Iodine facts'
Eating well in pregnancy
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.