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ODS Iodine Initiative

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Table of Contents


Iodine is an essential nutrient and a component of thyroid hormone. The iodine status (i.e., adequacy or deficiency) of populations and individuals varies with local geographic features, availability in the food supply, and use of fortified foods and dietary supplements. Although iodine deficiency is rare in the United States and Canada, it can have serious effects. For example, iodine deficiency can cause lower-than-average IQ in infants and children, decreased ability to work and think clearly in adults, and during pregnancy, birth defects in newborns.

ODS developed its Iodine Initiative in 2011 in response to concerns that some pregnant women may have inadequate intakes of this nutrient at a time of high physiologic demand. Five workshops have provided ODS expert opinion on public health issues and research needs.

ODS activities in iodine nutrition focus on supporting research, methodology development, and research-related resources that can provide a scientific base for understanding how best to improve iodine status in individuals with low to moderate risk of deficiency.

Programs and Resources

  • USDA Interagency Agreement: Iodine Database Project and analaysis of iodine in key foods, salt, drinking wtaer, and dietary supplements. 
  • Characterization of Population-Level Iodine Intake: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitors the iodine status of the U.S. population through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The CDC evaluates iodine status in NHANES by examining the distribution of urinary iodine concentrations of spot urine collections [Caldwell KL et al. 2011external link disclaimer]. ODS analyzed NHANES data to determine the proportion of pregnant women advised by their physicians to take supplements containing iodine (80%). Only 20% of these women used iodine-containing supplements, reinforcing concerns about whether iodine intake is adequate in this population [Gahche JJ et al. 2013external link disclaimer].
  • NIST: 
  • Research Resource and Methodology Development: The ODS Analytical Methods and Reference Materials Program collaborates with other government groups, including the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology and the CDC. The program works to improve existing analytical methods and develop new approaches to facilitate the evaluation of iodine status.
  • Informational Materials for Consumers and Health Professionals: In 2011, ODS developed iodine fact sheets; one for health professionals and another, in both English and Spanish, for consumers.
  • Biomarkers of Nutrition for Development (BOND) Program: ODS has supported the BOND program, led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of NIH, to harmonize the processes for choosing biomarkers to use for research, program development and evaluation, and evidence-based policies. The Iodine Expert Panel was one of the first programs that the BOND program developed, and ODS staff participated in the panel's 2011 meeting. The iodine panel report [Rohner F et al, 2015external link disclaimer], published in August 2014, summarizes the state of the science and identifies critical research priorities.

Funding Opportunity

  • Administrative Supplements for Iodine Nutrition Studies (PA-15-258external link disclaimer)


  • 2014 Iodine Workshops: ODS held three workshops in 2014. The results were published in September 2016 as a 14-article supplement to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [Volume 104, Number 3(S)]. 
    • Workshop 1—April 22–23, 2014
      The first meeting focused on the assessment of iodine intake from both foods and dietary supplements.
    • Workshop 2—July 22–23, 2014
      The second meeting addressed laboratory assessments of iodine status, including assessments related to thyroid function, particularly in relation to the needs of high-risk groups (pregnant and lactating women, infants, and young children).
    • Workshop 3—September 22–23, 2014 
      The third meeting addressed iodine status concerns in pregnant women, the potential impact of suboptimal status on pregnancy outcomes and child development, and suitable study designs for evaluating and improving iodine status in regions with differing levels of risk and among various high-risk groups (infants, adolescent girls, women of reproductive age, lactating women, and older adults).
  • 2013 Iodine Symposium
    ODS staff held a symposium during the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2013. This symposium summarized the results of recent clinical trials that have evaluated the efficacy of iodine supplementation in populations at greatest risk of iodine deficiency. A summary was published in Advances in Nutrition.
    • Swanson CA, Pearce EN. Iodine insufficiency: a global health problem? Adv Nutr 2013;4:533-5. [PubMed abstractexternal link disclaimer]
  • 2011 Iodine Meeting
    This ODS-sponsored meeting brought together iodine experts and representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), other agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Health Canada, to begin developing an NIH iodine research initiative.. Participants identified research needed to inform the development of new dietary reference intakes for iodine. A summary was published in the Journal of Nutrition.
    • Swanson CA, Zimmermann MB, Skeaff S, Pearce EN, Dwyer JT, Trumbo PR, et al. Summary of an NIH workshop to identify research needs to improve the monitoring of iodine status in the United States and to inform the DRI. J Nutr 2012;142:1175S-85S. [PubMed abstractexternal link disclaimer]