- A new U.K. study finds that popular plant-based milk could leave consumers at risk of iodine deficiency, according to Food Bev Media. Researchers from the University of Surrey found that the average milk alternative had only about 2% of the iodine found in cows’ milk, which is the main source of iodine in the British diet.
- The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, points out that this could be especially dangerous for pregnant women, since iodine is essential for fetal brain development.
- If consumers are avoiding dairy, researchers recommend getting iodine from other food sources and taking a supplement.
Ask the average consumer if he's getting enough iodine and a puzzled look may come in return. Iodine is a mineral the body needs to make thyroid hormones, which control metabolism. These hormones are also crucial for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy. But despite the important role iodine plays in health, many consumers are unaware of what it is and how it impacts their bodies.
While British consumers get the majority of their iodine from dairy sources, U.S. consumers get most of their iodine from both cow's milk products and fortified CPGs made from grains, like breads and cereals.
A consumer avoiding dairy in all forms would be able to get enough iodine from other natural food sources. Fish, seaweed, shrimp and other seafood are rich in iodine, as well as fortified breads and cereals. If a consumer is vegan and gluten-free, he may need to consider taking an iodine supplement.
The dairy industry may try to use this study as ammunition in their war on plant-based milk, which is rapidly stealing market share from its cow-produced counterpart. According to Mintel, U.S. non-dairy milk sales grew 9% in 2015, while dairy milk sales declined 7% during the same period.
There are a couple of possible problems with this line of attack, though. First, many consumers who choose to drink plant-based milk still eat other dairy products, like yogurt and cheese. There’s no reason for them to switch back to cow’s milk if they’re getting iodine from other sources.
But one of the most important parts of this recent study is the country in which it was performed and published: England. While iodine is commonly added to table salt in the U.S. and widely available, this is not the case in the U.K. If an American consumer wanted to get all of his daily iodine from salt, he would only need to consume roughly a half-teaspoon a day.