Iodine Status in America-Who’s at Risk?
By Lisa Murray RDN, LD
Medical Educator, Emerson Ecologics
Iodine deficiency has not been considered a national public health concern since implementation of the iodized salt program of the 1920’s. We readily accept the information provided by national nutrition surveys, as well as available data about the iodine content in foods as convincing evidence that Americans no longer have to worry about iodine deficiency. There were even several recent studies completed looking at the iodine status of pregnant women in the U.S., one of the most vulnerable groups at risk for iodine deficiency. However, what we so easily forget, is that evaluation of our national iodine status uses data collected on a large cross section of people, primarily eating the standard American diet. Are you eating the standard American diet?
The data has shown that milk, meat and eggs are the largest contributors of iodine to the American population. Milk and milk products are the food group still contributing the most iodine to our diets, even in present day. But how many people know that the iodine in milk, meat and eggs, comes primarily from iodized animal feed?
If your patients consume organic dairy products from pastured grass fed cattle, or grass fed beef, or eggs from free range pastured hens, (like we tell them to!) the iodine content will be relatively low, because grass is NOT a good source of iodine, nor is the vegetation and insects consumed by hens! In addition, many people have moved away from iodized salt, and prefer natural salts, or they avoid salt altogether. Vegetables (even organic), are generally a poor and very inconsistent source of iodine, due to soil variability and depletion.
In general, processed foods are higher in iodine than non-processed foods, with white bread and cake along with dairy products topping the list of iodine contributors to the American diet.
Um, I’m sorry? How much white bread and cake do YOU eat every day?
We are instructing our patients to avoid processed foods, eat more vegetables, and in many cases avoid dairy products, white bread, baked goods and salt! As far as current scientific opinion that Americans get enough iodine in their diet, we must seriously question what diet “they” are talking about! Certainly not the diets we recommend, nor does it even sync with the current 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Since I personally do not consume white bread, cake, or iodized salt daily, and I only choose organic pastured dairy products and eggs, organic unprocessed grains and vegetables and virtually NO processed foods, I cannot assume that I get enough iodine in my diet. And even though I eat fish several times a week, honestly, I just don’t like to eat seaweed which is really the best natural source of iodine. So if you and your patients are anything like me, then you might want to think about iodine status.
Multivitamins usually contain the RDA for iodine (150 mcg), which may or may not be adequate depending on weight and health issues. Fortunately, there are many products available containing supplemental iodine at different levels for maintaining healthy iodine levels and preventing iodine deficiency.
Iodine in food- and dietary supplement–composition databases. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 104, Issue suppl_3, 1 September 2016, Pages 868S–876S, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.110064
Lee KW1, Shin D2, Cho MS3, Song WO4.Food Group Intakes as Determinants of Iodine Status among US Adult Population. Nutrients. 2016 May 26;8(6). pii: E325. doi: 10.3390/nu8060325.
Kirsten A. Herrick,1,* Cria G. Perrine,2 Yutaka Aoki,1 and Kathleen L. Caldwell3 Iodine Status and Consumption of Key Iodine Sources in the U.S. Population with Special Attention to Reproductive Age Women. Nutrients. 2018 Jul; 10(7): 874.
Published online 2018 Jul 6. doi: [10.3390/nu10070874]