The relationship between the iodine intake level of a population and the occurrence of thyroid diseases is U-shaped with an increase in risk from both low and high iodine intakes. Developmental brain disorders and endemic goiter caused by severe iodine deficiency may seriously deteriorate overall health status and economic performance of a population. Severe iodine deficiency with a median 24-hour urinary iodine excretion of the population below 25 microg needs immediate attention and correction. Less severe iodine deficiency with median urinary iodine excretion below 120 microg per 24 hours is associated with multinodular autonomous growth and function of the thyroid gland leading to goiter and hyperthyroidism in middle aged and elderly subjects. The lower the iodine intake, the earlier and more prominent are the abnormalities. At the other end of the spectrum, severely excessive iodine intake starting at median urinary iodine excretion levels around 800 microg per 24 hours is associated with a higher prevalence of thyroid hypofunction and goiter in children. A number of studies indicate that moderate and mild iodine excess (median urinary iodine >220 microg per 24 hours) are associated with a more frequent occurrence of hypothyroidism, especially in elderly subjects. The exact mechanism leading to this has not been clarified, and more studies are needed to define the limits of excessive iodine intake precisely. Due to the frequent occurrence of thyroid disorders, proper monitoring and control of the population iodine intake level is a cost-effective alternative to diagnosing, therapy and control of the many individual cases of thyroid diseases that might have been prevented.