Dairy Council Northern Ireland

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Milk consumption important for teenage girls’ iodine levels


Milk consumption important for teenage girls’ iodine levels

A new survey of 14–15–year–old girls in Northern Ireland has found that higher intakes of milk were associated with better iodine status (the amount of iodine in the girls’ bodies).

This finding is from a report commissioned by safefood and undertaken by Queen’s University Belfast titled “Iodine Status on the island of Ireland.”

On average, girls who had the most milk in their diets had better iodine levels.

Iodine has several important roles in the body, including contributing to the normal production and function of thyroid hormones, which in turn are involved in normal growth and metabolism.

The report also found that, on average, girls in Northern Ireland have adequate iodine status based on guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, the levels found were at the low end of the range identified as adequate by the WHO, and 43% of  participants in the study overall had measurements indicating some degree of iodine deficiency.

The study’s Principal Investigator, Professor Jayne Woodside, Queen’s University Belfast comments:

“We chose this population group because iodine is an essential nutrient and there were concerns this group weren’t getting enough from their daily diet. As well as looking at the current iodine status on the island, our research also examined iodine concentrations of milk samples collected during different seasons of the year. Milk is the most important source of iodine in the diet. No seasonal differences were found and higher intake of dairy products was associated with higher levels of iodine. Other sources of iodine in the diet include fish and shellfish, meat and poultry. The WHO also recommend that population iodine status is reviewed every 5 years.”

Dr Carole Lowis, Nutritionist with the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland said:

“This report confirms the important contribution milk makes to iodine status. Milk and dairy foods are the biggest providers of iodine in the diet in the UK and Ireland. In fact, the latest results from another dietary survey published last week, the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey, showed that for the 11–18–year age group, dairy foods provided 40% of iodine intake, and milk alone around 26%.”

But she added:

“The inadequate iodine status in some of the girls also highlights that we can’t be complacent about iodine intakes or underestimate the importance of milk as source of iodine.”

A 200ml glass of semi–skimmed milk will provide over 40% of teenage girls’ iodine requirements*.

Find out more about the nutrients in milk

Health and nutrition professionals can find out more about iodine and cows’ milk from Dr Alison Yeates of Ulster University at our Annual Conference on 27th April.


*Reference Nutrient Intake for iodine: 11–14 yrs 130µg/day; 15–18 yrs 140µg/day



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