Dairy: why it matters.

Dairy products are the most widely available source of an essential micronutrient: iodine. Required for the synthesis of two thyroid hormones, thyroxin and tri-iodothyronine, iodine is critical for a healthy thyroid function. Other benefits include assisting the body with antioxidant activity. Daily consumption of milk, cheese and yoghurt provide it, but as these products have fallen from favour iodine deficiency is becoming an increasing problem. Iodine deficiency manifests in faster aging, weight gain and low energy levels. People in iodine-deficient regions such as Australia and India are also more prone to iodine-deficient illness such as goitre and 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.

For the lactose intolerant, fish is recommended as a good alternative source, as well as seaweeds, such as kelp. However, seaweed should only be consumed once a week, especially if you are pregnant, as it can provide excessive amounts; too much iodine can cause thyroid problems. If you are considering taking supplementation, it’s important to speak to your doctor first, but overall the best food sources for iodine remain dairy products.

Note: researchers have linked iodine deficiency to people who consume fast foods as their major source of nutrition.

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