Low-level seaweed supplementation improves iodine status in iodine-insufficient women

Br J Nutr. 2014 Sep 14;112(5):753-61. doi: 10.1017/S0007114514001573. Epub 2014 Jul 9.


Iodine insufficiency is now a prominent issue in the UK and other European countries due to low intakes of dairy products and seafood (especially where iodine fortification is not in place). In the present study, we tested a commercially available encapsulated edible seaweed (Napiers Hebridean Seagreens® Ascophyllum nodosum species) for its acceptability to consumers and iodine bioavailability and investigated the impact of a 2-week daily seaweed supplementation on iodine concentrations and thyroid function. Healthy non-pregnant women of childbearing age, self-reporting low dairy product and seafood consumption, with no history of thyroid or gastrointestinal disease were recruited. Seaweed iodine (712 μg, in 1 g seaweed) was modestly bioavailable at 33 (interquartile range (IQR) 28-46) % of the ingested iodine dose compared with 59 (IQR 46-74) % of iodine from the KI supplement (n 22). After supplement ingestion (2 weeks, 0·5 g seaweed daily, n 42), urinary iodine excretion increased from 78 (IQR 39-114) to 140 (IQR 103-195) μg/l (P< 0·001). The concentrations of thyroid-stimulating hormone increased from 1·5 (IQR 1·2-2·2) to 2·1 (IQR 1·3-2·9) mIU/l (P< 0·001), with two participants having concentrations exceeding the normal range after supplement ingestion (but normal free thyroxine concentrations). There was no change in the concentrations of other thyroid hormones after supplement ingestion. The seaweed was palatable and acceptable to consumers as a whole food or as a food ingredient and effective as a source of iodine in an iodine-insufficient population. In conclusion, seaweed inclusion in staple foods would serve as an alternative to fortification of salt or other foods with KI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Availability
  • Dairy Products
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iodine / administration & dosage*
  • Iodine / deficiency*
  • Iodine / pharmacokinetics
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Scotland
  • Seafood
  • Seaweed / chemistry*
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood


  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Thyrotropin
  • Iodine
  • Thyroxine