A simple solution to a global health problem
We often get asked about the safety or the supplemental value of iodine in our seaweed. Iodine confuses people because we hear about iodine being too high in the context of seaweed, while globally there are still many who suffer from low iodine intake. Indeed, the deficiency of iodine is still the leading cause of preventable brain damage in children today according to the World Health Organisation.
Even in Australia iodine deficiency is prevalent in about 50% of children. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are vital sources of iodine for their children in the early years of life, but are often deficient in iodine as our soils are not generally rich in iodine, especially in inland areas. The oceans are the biggest source of iodine on the planet, and unless you are getting iodine from regular seafood consumption or iodized salt, then you may be at risk.
Traditional sources of iodine in our diets are less reliable today
There is such a global deficiency of iodine that universal iodised salt was mandated in the 1990s, and in Australia it is a requirement of bread manufacturers to include iodised salt in breadmaking. However, this was only required for the large scale manufacture of breads and not in healthier organic breads. The rise of organic breads and a reduction in purchases of ultra processed types of breads means that bread might be healthier today, but it is no longer as reliable a source of iodine as it once was.
Milk is still a major source of dietary iodine in some countries in part due to supplementation in livestock, but also sterilization with iodine in dairies. However, this has dropped off due to changes in the dairy industry, and we can no longer count on milk as the source of iodine in a population. This is even more so the case when the population demographic is increasingly lactose intolerant.
Synthetic iodine production complicates the simple seaweed solution
Without milk and bread being the once reliable sources of iodine, it is up to the savvy consumer to buy iodized salts or to eat adequate seafood. Iodized salts source the iodine mostly from the brine found alongside gas wells, as the extraction from seawater would be too energy intensive. However, seaweed does the job for free for us! So why are we ignoring this biological service at our doorstep? Maybe the answer is too simple for people to believe in it.
Seaweed has probably been one of the most important sources of iodine for human brain development throughout the ages, and so the simple message is to get some in your food and get the dose right! Because salt is a food that we eat each day but in small amounts, it makes sense to use seaweed with your salt intake as you will get some but not too much. This is the easiest and safest way if you don’t know your seaweeds yet.
Not too much, not too little, just right
Iodine is a complicated trace element because it is ESSENTIAL for our health, but it is only required in TRACE amounts. All nutrients are just the same in that we need to eat the right amount of them, however, the right amount of iodine is both super essential but also super small. You only need about a teaspoon of iodine for your whole life, but it is essential for the whole journey.
Iodine is vital for thyroid hormonal function, and a number of thyroid disorders are caused by deficiency of iodine and can lead to impaired metabolism, protein synthesis, blood flow, brain development, cell growth, reproduction and bone health. We know that a lack of iodine causes serious neurological and hormonal health problems, but we still don’t fully understand where and how it all works. The fact that aside from the thyroid gland, we find iodine in the mammary glands, eye, gastric mucosa, cervix and salivary glands, suggests that iodine is essential for the function of our mucosal systems. Iodine is also an anti-oxidant.
A healthy adult can store up to 20 milligrams of iodine in the thyroid gland, and we should be keeping that up with the ingestion of up to 500 micrograms per day, as we use and lose most of that in 24 hours.
Because iodine is required in trace amounts, there is also the risk is that you can overdose on iodine. Many of you have heard about the risk of too much iodine from seaweed, although he global problems of deficiency on human health far outweigh the issues of overdosing in a smaller number of people. It is unfortunate that the field of nutrition is not yet across the diversity of seaweeds in the same way that they are across the nutritional diversity of plants, because not all seaweeds have super high levels of iodine. Although most seaweeds have at least some.
Understanding the seaweed solution properly
Seaweeds ain’t seaweeds just like plants ain’t plants. Some people make an assumption that because kombu has such sky-high levels of iodine, that all seaweeds do. You can see in the graph below that this is far from the truth.
PhycoHealth has a long history of research in measuring trace elements across many species of seaweeds, and in particular our own green seaweeds have just the right amount of iodine to be naturally useful in keeping up your iodine requirements, WITHOUT overdosing. You can see on the chart above that our 10g of our green seaweed has very safe iodine levels compared to other seaweeds such as Kombu. You should not, however, be eating even a gram of Kombu per day as the safe daily intake of iodine is already exceeded at 0.3g of Kombu. This is why you need to look at the species and amount of “kelp” included in ‘kelp” tablets.
Some things are just better provided in food than supplements
Because we know seaweeds so well, we can include 10g of our seaweed in staple foods such as pasta, snacks and muesli, which also delivers the other nutritional benefits from the rest of the seaweed, safely. You can expect to get up to 80% of your iodine requirements in a full serving of Phettuccine, while the recommended intake of SeaFibre-3 has very safe iodine levels at less than 20% of the recommended dietary intake for those of you who need to be careful with iodine. We believe that iodine is best eaten as a trace element in food than risk overdosing it in supplements.
Be part of turning a big global problem around with a simple solution for your health and a better planet.
If you have already got an overactive thyroid or underactive thyroid, then iodine in your diet may or may not be helpful. You should always consult with your doctor if you have thyroid health issues.