Dietary iodine intake in Japan varies from as little as 0.1 mg/day to as much as 20 mg/day. The present study was undertaken to assess the frequency of iodine-induced reversible hypothyroidism in patients diagnosed as having primary hypothyroidism, and to clarify the clinical backgrounds responsible for the spontaneous recovery of thyroid functions. Thirty-three consecutive hypothyroid patients (25 women and eight men) with a median age of 52 years (range, 21-77 years) without a history of destructive thyroiditis within 1 year were asked to refrain from taking any iodine-containing drugs and foods such as seaweed products for 1-2 months. The median serum thyrotropin (TSH) level, which was initially 21.9 mU/L (range, 5.4-285 mU/L), was reduced to 5.3 mU/L (range, 0.9-52.3 mU/L) after iodine restriction. Twenty-one patients (63.6%) showed a decrease in serum TSH by >50% and to <10 mU/L. Eleven patients (33.3%) became euthyroid with TSH levels within the normal range (0.3-3.9 mU/L). The ratios of TSH after iodine restriction to TSH before iodine restriction (aTSH/bTSH) did not correlate significantly with titers of anti-thyroid peroxidase antibody and anti-thyroglobulin antibody or echogenicity on ultrasonography, but correlated inversely with (99m)Tc uptake (r = 0.600, p < 0.001). Serum non-hormonal iodine levels, although not correlated significantly with aTSH/bTSH values, were significantly higher in the 21 patients with reversible hypothyroidism than in the remaining 12 patients. TSH binding inhibitor immunoglobulin was negative in all except one weakly positive case. In conclusion, (1) primary hypothyroidism was recovered following iodine restriction in more than half of the patients, and (2) the reversibility of hypothyroidism was not significantly associated with Hashimoto's thyroiditis but with increased (99m)Tc uptake and elevated non-hormonal iodine levels.