Iodine is an element that is essential for normal growth and for the development of the brain. It’s a good idea to know how much iodine you’re eating. A healthy diet needs enough iodine, but too much can cause health problems. Many Australians have enough iodine in their diet, but some don’t.
What does iodine do?
Iodine helps the thyroid gland, in the neck, to make the hormone thyroxine. Thyroxine controls many of the ways certain cells in your body work.
How do you get iodine?
You get iodine from food. Seafoods such as oysters, snapper and seaweed have lots of iodine. Tinned salmon, bread, eggs, milk and milk products such as yoghurt also contain iodine.
Iodine is also added to many types of salt. You can check on the label.
Iodised salt is now used in bread making. The packaging will tell you how much iodine the bread contains.
How much iodine do you need?
How much iodine you need depends on your age and stage of life:
|Stage of life||Recommended daily intake for iodine (micrograms per day)|
|Babies 0 to 6 months||90|
|Babies 7 to 12 months||110|
|Children aged 1 to 8||90|
|Children aged 9 to 13||120|
|Adolescents aged 14 to 18||150|
Too little or too much iodine can cause problems.
Too little iodine may cause extreme tiredness, feeling cold, problems concentrating and hair loss. And without enough iodine, the thyroid gland may enlarge to form a goitre. It shows up as a lump in the neck.
Too much iodine (usually from supplements) can be dangerous for people with thyroid disorders.
Iodine and pregnancy
If you are pregnant, check if you are eating enough iodine. Low iodine levels can increase the risk of a miscarriage. They can also lead to stunted growth and intellectual disability in the baby. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that all women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering pregnancy take an iodine supplement of 150 micrograms a day. Talk to your doctor about this. Women who have a thyroid condition should not take iodine supplements until they have checked with their doctor.
Getting enough iodine
Eating the five food groups will make sure you get enough iodine easily. Iodised salt contains iodine, but too much salt increases the risk of high blood pressure. Your doctor can help you make sure you are eating enough iodine.
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Last reviewed: June 2020