Iodine is a trace element present in all tissues but is largely stored in the thyroid, a gland located in the lower part of the neck. Iodine is mainly known for its key role in the production of thyroid hormones.



Iodine is essential for the production of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which play a very important role in body functions such as the regulation of body temperature. An adequate supply of iodine is particularly important for pregnant women and their unborn children, as well as during breastfeeding.

The production of these hormones begins early in the life of the foetus and is involved in the vital functions of the body, including the neurological development of the foetus and newborn. Iodine also has an effect on the nervous system and therefore on intellectual development.


In the past, the main cause of hypothyroidism was a lack of iodine. In some places, it led to delayed mental development when it appeared early in life: this was known as "cretinism". The systematic introduction of iodized salt into the diet has dramatically reduced the rate of the condition in developed countries.


The foods that are richest in iodine are mainly products of marine origin such as fish, seafood, seaweed and iodised salt. Eggs and dairy products are also good dietary sources of iodine.


An excess of iodine can lead to thyroid dysfunction (hyperthyroidism) but also to certain undesirable effects, particularly on the heart and kidneys. The excess is rarely food-related, it is most often caused by an excess of medication.

Conversely, an iodine deficiency can lead to a goitre (increase in the volume of the thyroid gland) and hypothyroidism. Even a slight iodine deficiency before or during pregnancy can induce harmful effects on the development of the foetus' thyroid gland and irreversibly affect its brain development and lead to psychomotor disorders.

Plants that do not contain sufficient quantities of iodine to satisfy iodine requirements, vegans or vegetarians who do not consume iodised salts or algae may be at risk of iodine deficiency.


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