How much do you know about iodine deficiency and how seaweed can help? Here Dr Craig Rose explains:

What is iodine and iodine deficiencyiodine deficiency

Iodine is a naturally occurring element, found in foods such as dairy, fish and other seafoods, but in very limited amounts in land based fruits and vegetables.

Iodine is needed for the body to make thyroid hormones, which control the body’s metabolism and other important functions. These other functions include brain and bone development during pregnancy and infancy.

Iodine deficiency is a lack of the trace element iodine, which is an essential nutrient in human diets. A diet insufficient in iodine can lead to IDD (Iodine Deficiency Disorder) and a response to this is that the thyroid gland increases in size (goitre) and hypothyroidism will occur.

A report from the Iodine Global Network says that the UK “now ranks seventh among the ten most iodine-deficient countries on the list.” 76% of UK girls are iodine sufficient, meaning that they aren’t consuming enough iodine as part of a balanced diet.

These are shocking figures that can’t be ignored!

Am I at risk of iodine deficiencyiodine deficiency risk

Various groups of people could be at risk of iodine deficiency if they have a diet insufficient in iodine. Groups most commonly at risk of iodine deficiency are children, pregnant women, consumers of a dairy free diet, vegan, vegetarian or paleo diet.

Milk is the UK’s principal dietary source of iodine, so the exclusion of dairy in a vegan and dairy free diets puts them at risk of inadequate iodine intake. The Paleo diet excludes dairy from participants diets, the risk of this is that it may lack in nutrients like calcium and iodine.

There are 6 EU Approved Health Claims associated with the intake of iodine, one of these being cognitive function and normal development of children. More than 50% of children and pregnant women in Australia are iodine deficient. During infancy, babies get their iodine from breast milk, but the levels of iodine depend on the mother’s intake. Mild and severe iodine deficiency can both have harmful effects on children’s brain development, nervous system and neurological development.

How can Seaweed help Iodine deficiency?iodine deficiency

Seaweed is a natural source of iodine, instead of being manufactured and added to salt to create iodised salt, for example. Consuming iodised salt or supplements containing potassium iodide has been shown in studies to be excreted quickly, whereas iodine from the right types of seaweed is absorbed more slowly in the body and when replete, iodine is then excreted.

However, whilst all seaweeds contain iodine, the levels of iodine differ with different species. For example, Porphyra species contains 0.118mg/g[i] iodine (79% RNI*) and Laminaria digitata species that contains 4.25mg/gi (2,833% RNI*) which is a lot, whereas Ascophyllum nodosum contains 0.725mg/gi (483% RNI*).  This diversity is important to understand depending on intake levels, and your supplier should be able to advise and provide batch-by-batch iodine information.

Which Seaweed is best?

All seaweed is good, but some is better and ours is the best!iodine deficiency

Our supply of Hebridean Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed is sustainably harvested from the Outer Hebrides using our Patent Pending processes. Hebridean Ascophyllum is a scalable species, that like all seaweeds require no land or fertiliser to grow.

As previously mentioned the levels of iodine in Hebridean Ascophyllum are no where near as high as many of the “kelps”, which often cause alarm, and in the applications and products containing our seaweed are well understood.  In fact we are leading an Innovate UK (the UK’s Innovation Agency) funded project looking at using our seaweed in pizzas and other products as a safe and natural source of iodine to seek to address the huge challenges of a population with a diet insufficient in iodine.

If you have any cause for concern, we are always delighted to discuss this, so please get in touch.

Are there any other benefits of seaweed?

Seaweed has many benefits other than just addressing iodine deficiency. It can be used as a salt replacement for flavour and shelf-life extension. It is incredibly nutrient dense, enhancing the nutrition of your food. Research has shown that consuming seaweed may increase satiety, aid weight management and help with blood sugar regulation.


If you are intrigued by this issue and would like to find out more about seaweed and iodine deficiency, please get in touch!



[i] Values from the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (1991)ii and the institute de Phytonutriton (2004)iii.
ii Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy. Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom. Rep Health Soc Subj. (1991). 41:1–210
iii Institut de Phytonutrition. Functional, health and therapeutic effects of algae and seaweed. (2004). Institut de Phytonutrition electronic database. Version 1.5. Beausoleil, France, Institut de Phytonutrition.
*Based on RNI of 150mcg/day