The Importance of Iodine

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant you will have received a lot of information about which vitamins and minerals are most important during pregnancy. Folate is one that gets a lot of media attention but what about iodine?

Iodine is an important mineral which plays a role in the production of thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyromine). These thyroid hormones are essential for growth, metabolism, and for the development of a baby’s brain during pregnancy and throughout early life.

A recent study conducted by the Menzies Institute of Medical Research, has found that even mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy can affect a child’s literacy skills years down the track. (Find out more here:

Interestingly, the participants who took part in the study followed a diet fortified with iodine during childhood, but it was found that ‘later supplementation was not enough to reverse the impact of the deficiency during the mother's pregnancy’.

What does this mean for expectant Mothers?
It is important to ensure that expectant Mothers are getting enough iodine from their diets and supplements, to support the growing foetus and to optimise neurological development. Breastfeeding mums also require a higher amount of iodine so that their breast milk has enough iodine for both themselves and their babies. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for iodine during pregnancy is 220 micrograms per day and 270 micrograms during lactation. For women who are not pregnant or lactating, the RDI is 150 micrograms per day.

How can I meet my requirement for iodine?
Many foods that we eat daily contain iodine such as milk and dairy products, seafood, grain products (due to the fortification program and the use of iodised salt), eggs and iodised salt. Some fruits and vegetables also contain iodine but the amount will be dependent on the iodine content of the soil in which they are grown. Homemade bread mixes and organic bread are not always fortified with iodine so it is important to check the labels.

Is supplementation necessary?
During pregnancy and lactation, The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends supplementing the diet with 150 micrograms of iodine per day. This amount can be met with a multivitamin supplement targeted at pregnant and breastfeeding women. As adequate iodine is important from the early stages of pregnancy, adequate dietary intake and supplementation should also be considered before becoming pregnant when possible.

It is important for women to seek medical advice before taking a supplement, particularly if they have any pre-existing thyroid conditions.
It is important to note that seaweed and a number of different types of seafood are not recommended during pregnancy due to the high concentrations of iodine and to reduce the risk of listeria infection or high doses of Mercury. All seaweed and kelp supplements should be avoided.
Contact an Accredited Practicing Dietitian or Doctor for more information if you are unsure of which seafoods are safe to consume.

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