Saturday, June 09, 2007


I heard on a Radio New Zealand podcast that it has been discovered that New Zealanders have very low iodine intakes, and this can cause health problem. There was a discussion of ways to combat this, and it seems that the government's approach is to pass a regulation that iodine must be added to all bread.

I guess this is a good idea, in that most people eat bread, but it surprised me that at no point in the interview did they mention one of the best dietary sources of iodine: kombu. I looked it up, wondering whether I had been given bad information and in fact kombu isn't such a great source, but I was right. According to this vegan society website, 15g of dried kombu or kelp in a convenient container in the kitchen provides one year's supply for one person.

I guess the problem would be getting people to use kombu, since it is not a part of the usual NZ diet. But kombu is easy. You can add a little to soup stock, and it tastes great. You don't need to eat the kombu, just use the kombu stock.

But one of the problems with iodine, I discovered when I searched the web, is that too much is as much of a problem as too little. I guess that means that if the government adds iodine to bread, they will not want people consuming kombu as well.

But my favourite sentence on the vegan society website was this one:

The low iodine levels in many plant foods reflects the low iodine levels in the UK soil, due in part to the recent ice-age.

Funny how the meaning of a word can change so much according to its context. For an exciting moment I thought the UK had had an ice age just last week and I hadn't heard about it.

How would an ice age affect iodine levels in plants, anyway?


Doris said...

I too love the "recent ice-age" comment. Is that so about kombu .... I think we have some in our kitchen ... I can't remember why, something to do with sushi.

It bugs me having these additives put in bread - even if they are supposed to be beneficial, it is all so blinking artificial! As long as some bread is being produced without it so that we can make a choice.

Keera Ann Fox said...

It won't help at all if they add it to bread with soy in it. Iodine is supposed to help keep the thyroid going; soy shuts it down.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that you can't just over-simplify it by saying that everybody in the country has the same low iodine intake. The iodine intake varies from person to person. Some people even suffer from iodine intolerance. Adding iodine to bread would mean that those people couldn't eat any store-bought bread made in New Zealand anymore.
I live in Germany where we have the exact same problem. Here they started not only to promote iodised salt about 20 years ago. Parallel to that they started feeding the chicken, cattle etc. iodised fodder (which hadn't been unveiled until some years ago). They feed them about 20x more iodine than they need. Now you can't get any German meat, dairy product, eggs and so on anymore that don't contain a high amount of iodine. And since products that contain much iodine still don't need to be labeled as such, one can't even figure out how much iodine he consumes over the day.