Iodine

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Changed on: 23.06.2016

Iodine is an essential nutrient and an important component of thyroid hormones, which could not be formed without iodine. They are involved in the regulation of growth, bone formation, metabolism and brain development. Iodine is absorbed primarily via food and the iodine content of foodstuffs varies greatly depending on the region. Chronic iodine deficiency in older people may lead to the formation of nodules in the thyroid gland. Activating these with a sudden oversupply of iodine such as from seaweed products with extremely high iodine content can lead to hyperfunction of the thyroid gland (iodine-induced hyperthyroidism) which may have life threatening effects on the metabolism.

In a normally functioning thyroid, a sustained excess of iodine can inhibit the formation of thyroid hormones, a consequence of which can be an undersupply (iodine-induced hypothyroidism) and the formation of a goitre (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), 2007).

Iodine is an essential nutrient and an important component of thyroid hormones, which could not be formed without iodine. They are involved in the regulation of growth, bone formation, metabolism and brain development. Iodine is absorbed primarily via food and the iodine content of foodstuffs varies greatly depending on the region. Chronic iodine deficiency in older people may lead to the formation of nodules in the thyroid gland. Activating these with a sudden oversupply of iodine such as from seaweed products with extremely high iodine content can lead to hyperfunction of the thyroid gland (iodine-induced hyperthyroidism) which may have life threatening effects on the metabolism.

In a normally functioning thyroid, a sustained excess of iodine can inhibit the formation of thyroid hormones, a consequence of which can be an undersupply (iodine-induced hypothyroidism) and the formation of a goitre (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), 2007).

Hazard identification

Seaweed and algae products have increasingly been sold on the European market in recent years. These products are characterised in particular by a very variable and frequently high iodine content. Usually there is a lack of information on preparation and consumption recommendations. As Austria has been identified as an iodine deficient area, intake of high levels of iodine through these products can potentially lead to health problems for the consumer.

Risk assessment

Consuming even just a few grammes (2g) can lead to up to 9.2 mg of iodine being absorbed. The maximum tolerable daily intake for iodine of 500 µg can therefore be exceeded by as much as 18 times that level. By consuming an entire packet, the intake is up to 460 times the tolerable level.

In the absence of any specific information on quantitative use of seaweeds, or on their preparation or on consumption levels of these products, extremely high quantities of iodine can be absorbed that massively exceed the maximum tolerable daily intake. Consumers’ health can therefore be damaged by consuming these products. Population groups particularly at risk are young children, pregnant women and older people.


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