The extrathyronine actions of iodine as antioxidant, apoptotic, and differentiation factor in various tissues

Thyroid. 2013 Aug;23(8):938-46. doi: 10.1089/thy.2012.0579.


Background: Seaweed is an important dietary component and a rich source of iodine in several chemical forms in Asian communities. Their high consumption of this element (25 times higher than in Western countries) has been associated with the low incidence of benign and cancerous breast and prostate disease in Japanese people.

Summary: We review evidence showing that, in addition to being a component of the thyroid hormone, iodine can be an antioxidant as well as an antiproliferative and differentiation agent that helps to maintain the integrity of several organs with the ability to take up iodine. In animal and human studies, molecular iodine (I2) supplementation exerts a suppressive effect on the development and size of both benign and cancerous neoplasias. Investigations by several groups have demonstrated that these effects can be mediated by a variety of mechanisms and pathways, including direct actions, in which the oxidized iodine dissipates the mitochondrial membrane potential, thereby triggering mitochondrion-mediated apoptosis, and indirect effects through iodolipid formation and the activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors type gamma, which, in turn, trigger apoptotic or differentiation pathways.

Conclusions: We propose that the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficient Disorders recommend that iodine intake be increased to at least 3 mg/day of I2 in specific pathologies to obtain the potential extrathyroidal benefits described in the present review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Breast / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iodine / adverse effects
  • Iodine / deficiency
  • Iodine / metabolism
  • Iodine / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • PPAR gamma
  • Prostate / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • PPAR gamma
  • Iodine