British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Iodine intake and iodine deficiency in vegans as assessed by the duplicate-portion technique and urinary iodine excretion

Helen J. Lightowlera1 c1 and G. Jill Daviesa1

a1 Nutrition Research Centre, School of Applied Science, South Bank University, 103 Borough Road, London SE1 0AA, UK


I intake and I deficiency were investigated in thirty vegans (eleven males and nineteen females) consuming their habitual diet. I intake was estimated using the chemical analysis of 4 d weighed duplicate diet collections. The probability of I-deficiency disorders (IDD) was judged from the measurement of urinary I excretion in 24 h urine specimens during the 4 d. There was wide variation in I intake. Mean I intake in males was lower than the reference nutrient intake (RNI; Department of Health, 1991) and mean intake in females was above the RNI, although 36% males and 63% females had I intakes below the lower RNI. Mean I intake in subjects who consumed seaweed (n 3) was in excess of the RNI, and approached the provisional maximum tolerable daily intake (World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, 1989). The probability of IDD in the group investigated was moderate to severe: three of five subgroups were classified as moderate and two subgroups were classified as severe IDD possibility. The findings highlight that vegans are an ‘at risk’ group for I deficiency. The I status of vegans and the subclinical effects of low I intakes and infrequent high I intakes on thyroid function in this group should be further studied. Our work has also raised the question of adequate I intakes in groups where cow's milk is not consumed, and has exposed a need for more research in this area.

(Received February 09 1998)

(Revised June 26 1998)

(Accepted July 14 1998)


c1 *Dr Helen Lightowler, fax +44 (0) 171 815 7999, email