Thyroid disorders in mild iodine deficiency

Thyroid. 2000 Nov;10(11):951-63. doi: 10.1089/thy.2000.10.951.


Comparative epidemiologic studies in areas with low and high iodine intake and controlled studies of iodine supplementation have demonstrated that the major consequence of mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency for the health of the population is an extraordinarily high occurrence of hyperthyroidism in elderly subjects, especially women, with risk of cardiac arrhythmias, osteoporosis, and muscle wasting. The hyperthyroidism is caused by autonomous nodular growth and function of the thyroid gland and it is accompanied by a high frequency of goiter. Pregnant women and small children are not immediately endangered but the consequences of severe iodine deficiency for brain development are grave and a considerable safety margin is advisable. Moreover, a shift toward less malignant types of thyroid cancer and a lower radiation dose to the thyroid in case of nuclear fallout support that mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency should be corrected. However, there is evidence that a high iodine intake may be associated with more autoimmune hypothyroidism, and that Graves' disease may manifest at a younger age and be more difficult to treat. Hence, the iodine intake should be brought to a level at which iodine deficiency disorders are avoided but not higher. Iodine supplementation programs should aim at relatively uniform iodine intake, avoiding deficient or excessive iodine intake in subpopulations. To adopt such a strategy, surveillance programs are needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperthyroidism / epidemiology*
  • Hypothyroidism / epidemiology*
  • Incidence
  • Iodine / deficiency*


  • Iodine