Tasmanians now enjoy iodine health benefits

Tasmanians are now enjoying the health benefits of getting enough iodine in their diets thanks to an initiative first trialled in the state.

Although iodine makes up just a tiny fraction of a recommended diet, Tasmanians traditionally did not receive enough through their food.

Even mild iodine deficiency reduces growth and intellectual development in babies and children.

In 2001, the local baking industry agreed to voluntarily use iodised salt in bread. This innovation led to a small improvement in childhood iodine levels – restricted partially because not all bread-making mix was made in Tasmania.

Tasmania’s experience from this trial, and the recognition other states shared iodine deficiency, influenced a 2009 decision to make iodised salt use in bread compulsory in Australia.

Now, the additional iodine in food from the mandatory national program has increased iodine to optimal levels in Tasmanian children.

The Department of Health and Human Services has routinely surveyed iodine intake since 1998, tracking improvements through urinary iodine surveys of school children.

The results show the importance of routinely monitoring key health indicators, and especially the benefits regulation can have on improving our health.

Do you get enough iodine?

Most people can now get enough iodine in their diet if they eat bread and have dairy foods (for example, milk or yoghurt) on most days of the week as part of a healthy diet.

Good food sources for iodine include:

  • dairy milk
  • bread
  • seafood such as flathead, tuna and salmon (including tinned varieties), oysters, mussels, prawns and crayfish.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women need more iodine than they will get from food alone and are advised to take a supplement with 150 micrograms of iodine a day.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about a suitable iodine supplement.