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Getting enough Iodine? Not eating bread?

Jacqui Finlayson, School of Food and Nutrition Masters student, Massey University.

Worldwide iodine deficiency remains one of the most common nutrient deficiencies and New Zealand naturally has low levels of iodine in the soil which results in low levels of iodine in the food supply.

Massey University’s School of Food and Nutrition Master’s student Jacqui Finlayson’s interest in New Zealand’s iodine situation has ignited research investigating the iodine levels of Kiwi women who choose to avoid bread.

“Iodine is a mineral required by the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones essential for growth and development, especially for our brain and central nervous system. In adults, iodine is essential to produce thyroid hormones for metabolism and brain function as well as other minor body functions. Inadequate iodine in mid-life to older women could play a role in thyroid dysfunction,” she says.

Earlier last century the rate of people developing goitre (a physical response to iodine deficiency) in New Zealand resulted in the introduction of salt iodisation. By the 1950s, this condition had almost disappeared. However since the 1990s, iodine deficiency has re-emerged.

“In 2009, to address the New Zealand situation, the Government introduced the mandatory addition of iodised salt to all bread except organic. However, if you don’t eat bread regularly as part of your diet, then the effect of this fortification doesn’t reach everyone.”

Because mid-life women are more vulnerable to thyroid dysfunction, Ms Finlayson’s study chose this as the target group. The Women, Bread and Iodine Study, nicknamed the WOMBI study, is currently underway and more participants are needed.

“To date no other study investigating iodine levels of mid-life women who avoid bread has been undertaken in New Zealand. Effects of low iodine levels are not always obvious and are not routinely tested for. Already I have noticed that even knowledge about dietary sources of iodine is lacking and I want to raise awareness through my research,” Ms Finlayson says.

“By taking part in this study you will be contributing to the health, wellbeing and knowledge for the women of New Zealand while also learning valuable information about your own dietary sources and intake of iodine.”

Study participants must be mid-life women (40-65 years) living in the Auckland region who restrict bread from their diet. Participants can register to take part in the study here.

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