Iodine status of consumers of milk-alternative drinks v. cows' milk: data from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey

Br J Nutr. 2021 Jul 14;126(1):28-36. doi: 10.1017/S0007114520003876. Epub 2020 Sep 30.


Milk is the main source of iodine in the UK; however, the consumption and popularity of plant-based milk-alternative drinks are increasing. Consumers may be at risk of iodine deficiency as, unless fortified, milk alternatives have a low iodine concentration. We therefore aimed to compare the iodine intake and status of milk-alternative consumers with that of cows' milk consumers. We used data from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey from years 7 to 9 (2014-2017; before a few manufacturers fortified their milk-alternative drinks with iodine). Data from 4-d food diaries were used to identify consumers of milk-alternative drinks and cows' milk, along with the estimation of their iodine intake (µg/d) (available for n 3976 adults and children ≥1·5 years). Iodine status was based on urinary iodine concentration (UIC, µg/l) from spot-urine samples (available for n 2845 adults and children ≥4 years). Milk-alternative drinks were consumed by 4·6 % (n 185; n 88 consumed these drinks exclusively). Iodine intake was significantly lower in exclusive consumers of milk alternatives than cows' milk consumers (94 v. 129 µg/d; P < 0·001). Exclusive consumers of milk alternatives also had a lower median UIC than cows' milk consumers (79 v. 132 µg/l; P < 0·001) and were classified as iodine deficient by the WHO criterion (median UIC < 100 µg/l), whereas cows' milk consumers were iodine sufficient. These data show that consumers of unfortified milk-alternative drinks are at risk of iodine deficiency. As a greater number of people consume milk-alternative drinks, it is important that these products are fortified appropriately to provide a similar iodine content to that of cows' milk.

Keywords: Iodine; Iodine deficiency; Milk; Milk-alternative drinks; National Diet and Nutrition Survey; Plant-based milk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Child
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iodine* / analysis
  • Milk Substitutes*
  • Milk* / chemistry
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritional Status
  • United Kingdom


  • Iodine