Seaweed and soy: companion foods in Asian cuisine and their effects on thyroid function in American women

J Med Food. 2007 Mar;10(1):90-100. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2005.056.


Seaweeds and soy are two commonly eaten foods in Asia. Both have been reported to affect thyroid function, seaweed because of its iodine content and soy because of its goitrogenic effect. Twenty-five healthy postmenopausal women (mean age 58 years) completed a double-blinded randomized crossover study. Ten capsules (5 g/day) of placebo or seaweed (Alaria esculenta), providing 475 microg of iodine/day, were consumed daily for 7 weeks. A powdered soy protein isolate (Solae Co., St. Louis, MO), providing 2 mg of isoflavones/kg of body weight, was given daily during the last week of each treatment arm. On average, this provided 141.3 mg of isoflavones/day and 67.5 g of protein/day. Blood samples and 48-hour urine samples were collected before and after each intervention period, and urinary I/C (microg of iodine/g of creatinine) and serum thyroxine, free thyroxine index, total triiodothyronine, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) were measured. Seaweed ingestion increased I/C concentrations (P < .0001) and serum TSH (P < .0001) (1.69 +/- 0.22 vs. 2.19 +/- 0.22 microU/mL, mean +/- SE). Soy supplementation did not affect thyroid end points. Seven weeks of 5 g/day seaweed supplementation was associated with a small but statistically significant increase in TSH. Soy protein isolate supplementation was not associated with changes in serum thyroid hormone concentrations.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Asia
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iodine / administration & dosage
  • Iodine / urine
  • Isoflavones / administration & dosage
  • Middle Aged
  • Placebos
  • Postmenopause
  • Seaweed / chemistry*
  • Soybean Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Soybeans / chemistry*
  • Thyroid Gland / drug effects
  • Thyroid Gland / physiology*
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Triiodothyronine / blood


  • Isoflavones
  • Placebos
  • Soybean Proteins
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyrotropin
  • Iodine
  • Thyroxine