Efficacy and Safety of Long-Term Universal Salt Iodization on Thyroid Disorders: Epidemiological Evidence from 31 Provinces of Mainland China

Thyroid. 2020 Apr;30(4):568-579. doi: 10.1089/thy.2019.0067. Epub 2020 Mar 24.


Background: Mandatory universal salt iodization (USI) has been implemented in China for 20 years. Although iodine deficiency disorders are effectively controlled, the risk of excess iodine have been debated. Methods: A nationally representative cross-sectional study with 78,470 enrolled participants, aged 18 years or older, from all 31 provincial regions of mainland China was performed. The participants were given a questionnaire and underwent B-mode ultrasonography of the thyroid. Serum concentrations of thyroid hormones, thyroid antibodies, and urine iodine concentration (UIC) were measured. Results: The median UIC of the adult population was 177.89 μg/L. The weighted prevalence of thyroid disorders in adults were as follows: 0.78% of overt hyperthyroidism, 0.44% of subclinical hyperthyroidism, 0.53% of Graves' disease, 1.02% of overt hypothyroidism, 12.93% of subclinical hypothyroidism, 14.19% of positive thyroid antibodies, 10.19% of positive thyroid peroxidase antibodies, 9.70% of positive thyroglobulin antibodies, 1.17% of goiter, and 20.43% of thyroid nodules. Iodine excess was only associated with higher odds of overt hyperthyroidism and subclinical hypothyroidism, while iodine deficiency was significantly associated with higher odds of most thyroid disorders. In addition, increased iodine intake was significantly associated with elevated serum thyrotropin levels but was inversely associated with thyroid antibodies and thyroid nodules. Conclusions: The long-term mandatory USI program with timely adjustments is successful in preventing iodine deficiency disorders, and it appears to be safe. The benefits outweigh the risks in a population with a stable median iodine intake level of up to 300 μg/L.

Keywords: China; iodine; prevalence; thyroid disorders; universal salt iodization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperthyroidism / diagnostic imaging
  • Hyperthyroidism / epidemiology*
  • Hyperthyroidism / prevention & control
  • Hypothyroidism / diagnostic imaging
  • Hypothyroidism / epidemiology*
  • Hypothyroidism / prevention & control
  • Iodine / administration & dosage
  • Iodine / adverse effects
  • Iodine / deficiency*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / adverse effects
  • Thyroid Gland / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Young Adult


  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary
  • iodized salt
  • Iodine