Let’s talk dairy and iodine
Dairy products have suffered a bad press for a long time, not only because of the low-fat crusade but also more recently as celebrities have promoted clean eating protocols. Of course, if you are lactose intolerant soya and almond milk make for a great alternative and bring other benefits, but an unintended consequence for those that are following a fad has been the loss of a critical delivery system for an important nutrient: iodine.
A unique taste and smell, most folk associate iodine with cleaning cuts (or even the medicinal flavour of some Islay malt whiskies) but not with milk, cheese and yoghurt, the normal range of dairy products we might consume daily. Yet these foods have always been a critical source of an essential micronutrient. Required for the synthesis of two thyroid hormones, thyroxin and tri-iodothyronine, it is critical for a healthy thyroid function. Other benefits include assisting the body with antioxidant activity, but perhaps more important, iodine deficiency is serious. It manifests in:
- faster aging
- weight gain
- low energy levels
People living in recognised iodine-deficient areas such as Australia, India and several African and European countries are also more prone to iodine-deficient illness such as:
- stomach cancer
Emerging evidence also points to low iodine consumption increasing the risk of breast cancer, while it may also cause reduced IQ in babies as it is essential in pregnancy for foetal brain development. It’s also interesting to note that researchers have linked iodine deficiency to people who consume fast foods as their major source of nutrition.
Alternative iodine sources
Fish is recommended, as well as seaweeds, such as kelp, as an alternative iodine source. However, seaweed should only be consumed once a week, especially if you are pregnant, as it can provide excessive amounts, with too much iodine capable of causing thyroid problems. If you are considering taking supplementation, it’s important to speak to your doctor first, but overall it must be said that the best food sources for iodine remain dairy products.
“Drinka Pinta Milka Day?”
This was the slogan of the now defunct UK Milk Marketing Board, deregulated in 1994 and dissolved in 2002. It turns out this was pretty good advice for kids and expectant Mum’s, certainly in the case of getting an essential nutrient such as iodine. Yet iodine may not be the only reason to go back to this advice from an earlier age.
Can low fat mean more fat?
With around a third of children in the UK obese, and on the day the press reports that British children are among the least active in the world, it has also been reported that kids who drink whole milk are leaner and have higher vitamin D levels than those who drink low-fat or skim milk. New research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests children who drank whole (3.25 per cent fat content) milk had a Body Mass Index score that was 0.72 units lower than those who drank 1 or 2 per cent milk. And this is important because, as the lead author, Dr. Jonathon Maguire, pointed out, this is comparable to the difference between having a healthy weight and being overweight. A link to the full report is below.
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About the author
According to a report in The Lancet, each additional 12 ounce soda a child consumes, the risk of the child becoming obese increased by 60% during a 1.5 year follow-up period. Better a glass of milk than a can of soda – see link to the latest research at the conclusion of the main article.
Today we consume 3 times the amount of sugar recommended in our diet. Low-fat dairy products contain more sugar than full-fat, but people fear fat more than sugar.