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ARS Home » Plains Area » Grand Forks, North Dakota » Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center » Healthy Body Weight Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #405810

Research Project: Dietary and Physical Activity Guidance for Weight Loss and Maintenance

Location: Healthy Body Weight Research

Title: Cow’s milk as an important source of iodine for prenatal health and switching to plant-based milk can lead to iodine insufficiencies

item LUNDQUIST, HALLIE - University Of Minnesota
item SLAVIN, JOANNE - University Of Minnesota
item Hess, Julie
item Comeau, Madeline

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science Communications
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/10/2023
Publication Date: 1/29/2024
Citation: Lundquist, H., Slavin, J., Hess, J.M., Comeau, M.E. 2024. Cow’s milk as an important source of iodine for prenatal health and switching to plant-based milk can lead to iodine insufficiencies. Journal of Dairy Science Communications. 5(3):181-184.

Interpretive Summary: Iodine is an essential nutrient that becomes especially important during the lifestages of pregnancy and lactation. This review provides a brief overview of the importance of iodine and primary food sources in the U.S. diet that contain iodine. Dairy foods are a major source of iodine in the American diet, which is due to both iodine supplements added to cattle feed and sanitizing practices used on dairy farms (for instance, iodophor-based teat dips). This review also covers the potential consequences to iodine intake of decreasing milk consumption among Americans.

Technical Abstract: Iodine insufficiencies are common among many populations, particularly pregnant women. One of the main functions of iodine is making thyroid hormone. The two main hormones which iodine influences are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid hormone is essential for the metabolism of most tissues in the body. For the average adult, the Recommended Dietary Allowance, RDA, for iodine is 150 mcg. During certain stages of life, such as pregnancy, lactation, and infancy, the importance of iodine is even greater as it supports brain, bone, and organ development. The RDA for iodine during pregnancy is 220 mcg and while breastfeeding, the RDA is 290 mcg. Consuming enough iodine in the diet during pregnancy helps support fetal neurodevelopment. Iodine is found in several food sources such as seafood and iodized salt, however dairy products are one of the major sources of iodine in American diets. It is important to note that only bovine milk products are rich in this mineral. One cup of milk provides between 39% and 57% of the daily iodine needs for the average adult and pregnant women, respectively. As the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends limiting sodium intake, which includes iodized salt, dairy may become an even more important source of iodine. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, about 90% of the U.S. population does not meet the dairy recommendations presented in the DGA. In recent years, plant-based diets have received a lot of attention. A market for plant-based milk alternatives has grown and includes a variety of options such as almond, soy, and oat milk. Plant-based milks do not naturally contain iodine and are typically not fortified with iodine. Women of childbearing age who drink plant-based milks instead of cow’s milk have lower iodine levels than women who consume cow’s milk. This review will focus on the importance of iodine in the diet to support prenatal health, lactation, and infant health.