Iodine is a chemical element or mineral. The body does not make iodine, but the thyroid gland needs iodine to make hormones. You get most of your iodine from food.
Like folate, iodine is essential for normal development of the brain and nervous system in a baby while they are in the womb and as a young child. If you have low levels of iodine before you get pregnant you may not have enough iodine to support you and your developing baby in the first trimester (first twelve weeks) of pregnancy, and/or the demands of later pregnancy may produce iodine deficiency. Iodine deficiency can lead to lower intelligence of the baby.
Iodine can be found in sea-water, marine plants such as kelp and in soil. The main dietary sources are bread, dairy and seafood, but it is difficult to obtain adequate iodine through diet alone. The amount of iodine in food is dependent on the season, soil quality, and the way food is processed. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified Australia as mildly iodine deficient.
From October 2009, the Australian Government required that salt used to make bread, except organic bread, be replaced with iodised salt. This mandatory iodine fortification will increase iodine intakes by approximately 45-66 micrograms (0.045-0.066mgs) per day, an amount comparable to the iodine content of a large glass of milk (300ml).
Iodine supplements are another way of getting iodine.
Last updated 24 July 2017 — Last reviewed 17 February 2014
** Currently under review **
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at February 2014.