Background: Iodine intake is often measured by a surrogate measure, namely urine iodine excretion as almost all ingested iodine is excreted in the urine. However, the methods for urine collection and the reporting of the results vary. These methods, and their advantages and disadvantages, are considered in this article.
Summary: There are two main ways in which urine can be collected for iodine measurement. The first is the collection of urine over a period, usually 24 hours. The second is the collection of a spot urinary sample. Urinary iodine values can be expressed as the content or concentration and reported without modification or as a function of creatinine in the same sample. The 24-hour urine for iodine measurement is often considered as the "reference standard" for giving a precise estimate of the individual iodine excretion and thereby iodine intake. As 24-hour collections are difficult to perform for large number of persons, single spot urinary samples are preferable to the 24-hour urinary collections in population studies. The iodine concentration in urine depends on the intake of both iodine and fluid. This, and the fact that there is a considerable variability in the daily iodine intake, makes the iodine measurement in spot urine samples unreliable for evaluating individuals for iodine deficiency, though they can be used to screen for exposure to large amounts of iodine from sources such as amiodarone and certain radiographic contrast agents. In populations of at least 500 subjects, the median value of spot urinary iodine concentration is a reliable measure of the iodine intake in the population as there is a leveling out of the day-to-day variation in iodine intake and urinary volume. Expressing the urinary iodide concentration as a function of urinary creatinine is useful in correcting for the influence of fluid intake. When doing so, it is recommended to adjust for the age- and sex-specific creatinine excretion in the given population.
Conclusion: In studies of iodine intake, the correct choice of the method for collecting urine and the format for expressing the results of urine iodine measurement is essential to avoid misinterpretation of data on the iodine status of a population or individuals.