BTA Research Team: UK is now Iodine Deficient

15 April 2011

A new study suggests that the UK is now iodine-deficient, indicating an urgent need for a comprehensive investigation of the UK iodine status and recommendations to safeguard public health.

The findings, presented this week at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Birmingham, demonstrate iodine deficiency in a sample population of 14-15-year-old girls. They provide the only current data on the UK’s iodine status.

Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental impairment worldwide.

The study, which was the first of its kind in the UK, was led by Dr Mark Vanderpump (Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust) and colleagues on behalf of the British Thyroid Association (BTA) with the support of the British Thyroid Foundation (BTF), and funded by the Clinical Endocrinology Trust. Researchers measured the amount of iodine in urine samples from 737 14-15-year-old girls from nine UK centres. Factors that might skew the results, such as diet and ethnicity, were assessed using a questionnaire. Variations due to season and location were corrected for via measurements taken in summer 2009 and winter 2009/2010 and water samples from each area were measured for iodine content.

Nearly 70% of the samples were below 100ug/L (the acceptable minimum level defined by the World Health Organisation) and 18% of samples showed very low iodine levels below 50μg/L.

These findings are consistent with a fall in iodine status recently reported in Australia and USA.

In a press release issued Tuesday, 12 April, the Society for Endocrinology said: ‘Iodine is an essential trace element which helps the thyroid gland function properly. Most people get their iodine from their diet. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has conducted a global programme of salt iodisation since 1993. The UK does not yet require salt producers to add iodine to their salt.

‘Young women of child-bearing age are the most susceptible to the adverse effects of iodine-deficiency and even mild deficiency may have an impact on the developing brain of foetuses and young children. It can also cause goitre. According to the World Health Organisation, iodine-deficient communities have IQs up to 13.5 points lower than similar but iodine-sufficient communities.’

Researcher Dr Mark Vanderpump, Consultant Physician and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Diabetes and Endocrinology at the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, said:

’Our data suggest the UK is now iodine-deficient, indicating an urgent need for a comprehensive investigation of the UK iodine status. We need to look into this now to decide whether public health bodies need to step in.

’The WHO has made iodine deficiency a global priority and has been campaigning for at-risk countries to add iodine to their salt, a campaign which has been very successful. If it turns out that we do have a problem, this could be the most viable solution.

’We are very concerned about these findings as the consequences of iodine deficiency are grave: iodine-deficient communities score lower in IQ tests, and even mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy can cause serious mental impairments in children.’

Milk is an important source of iodine in the UK. Presenting a preview of the study results at the BTF London local group’s information meeting at the Royal Free Hospital on Saturday, 9 April, Dr Vanderpump said: ‘One cup of milk contains about half the amount of iodine needed per day. A possible explanation for our findings may be that teenage girls are drinking less milk and are less likely to have milk and cereal for breakfast. The solution could be to add iodine to the salt used in products such as bread as has been done in for example Denmark.’


Society for Endocrinology. New study suggests UK is now iodine-deficient. Press Release. 12 April 2011.

Vanderpump M Lazarus J Smyth P Burns R Eggo M Han, T et al. Assessment of the UK iodine status: a national survey. Endocrine Abstracts. Presented at the Society for Endocrinology BES 2011: 11 April 2011-14 April 2011

Further reading

BTF News. Study to assess UK iodine levels. BTF News. 2009: 69:1.

Medical News Today. Retrieved 14 April 2011

Roberts M. Worrying levels of iodine deficiency in the UK. BBC News Health. 12 April 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2011





facebook Follow BTF on Twitter



Leaving a Legacy
Help to make a real difference by remembering BTF in your Will




2 April 2014
BTF Children's Conference

Still a few days to book a place for your family to attend the BTF's first conference for children and their families and carers.




2 April 2014
BTF Christmas cards for sale

We have a selection of BTF Christmas cards which we're selling off at reduced prices.




28 January 2014
Thyroid Cancer Patient Information film

Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust have produced a new film for patients who have been newly diagnosed with thyroid cancer




Patient information event to take place for people with Thyroid Eye Disease
The meeting will be held on 16 May 2014 in Newcastle upon Tyne and will be a fantastic opportunity for patients to meet European and UK experts, find out about the latest advances, and get involved in discussions about the priorities of future research into TED.




14 January
Volunteers wanted for patient film project

BTF is looking for people to take part in 3 short films we'll be making about hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer.




8 January
Thyroid Eye Disease and Smoking Cessation Leaflet

If you've had Graves' and/or TED then please read a new smoking cessation leaflet and let us have your feedback.




12 December
Thyroid Eye Disease Study Team (WALES)

The NISCHR CRC is looking for two volunteers with experience of thyroid eye disease to take part in a study.




2 December
Response to Petition #PE01463 to Scottish Parliament

The BTF has submitted a response to Petition #PE01463 to the Scottish Parliament about the treatment of thyroid and adrenal disorders.




5 November 2013
Thyroid Eye Disease Research

Congratulations to Matt Edmunds of the University of Birmingham who has been awarded the Fight for Sight/BTF and TEDct Research Award.




23 October 2013
Carbimazole shortage

Mercury Pharma report a shortage in the supply of carbimazole 20mg




Drug Availability Updates
The latest news and updates from pharmaceutical companies can be found below.




Current Surveys

We have surveys for which participants are required.



Support the BTF by getting a BTF key ring


Soy? Coconut Oil? Kelp? Don’t know what to believe? False claims, quick fixes and promises exposed here.
Associated with:

British Thyroid Association British Thyroid Association - medical professionals encouraging the highest standards in patient care and research.

British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons - the representative body of British Surgeons who have a specialist interest in surgery of the endocrine glands (thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal)