Should vegans take an iodine supplement?

Should vegans take an iodine supplement

Most vegans are aware that a supplement must be taken to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency, but there is another nutrient that they may be deficient in: iodine.

Should vegans take an iodine supplement

A study carried out by an independent agency of the German government, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, has studied the differences in the nutritional status of a group of 36 vegans (vegetarians who do not eat healthy foods). Animal origin) and has compared them with those of a group of 36 omnivores (people who eat everything).

The bottom line is that vegans are at higher risk of iodine deficiency, so they should consider the need for supplementation.

When referring to the alleged deficiencies of a vegan diet, protein, iron, calcium or vitamin B12 are often mentioned. However, according to German researchers, the main concern of vegans should be iodine, an essential mineral, especially for the endocrine system.


The BfR research team analyzed blood and urine samples and conducted a questionnaire to the participants on lifestyle and dietary protocols to compare the effects of the vegan diet and the omnivorous diet in relation to obtaining a variety of vitamins and trace elements.

The results indicated that there was no “significant difference” in levels of vitamin B12, a nutrient that is often cited as a concern for vegans because it is found exclusively in meat, dairy and eggs. Researchers point out that 92% of German vegans take a supplement, which explains the data found. Therefore, vitamin B 12 is not currently a problem.

However, the majority of vegans are not aware that they may suffer from iodine deficiency, they do not supplement it, and the result is that a third of the vegans in the study did not take it in sufficient doses.

The iodine levels of these people were below 20 mcg per liter (μg / L), which is the minimum limit defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Anything below this represents a serious shortage. Iodine deficiency also affected the omnivore group, but to a lesser extent.

The German study is not epidemiological, it does not reveal the true incidence rates of nutrient deficiency in the vegan and omnivorous populations. The work only intended to thoroughly measure the nutritional status of a group of vegan people.


Iodine is a mineral that occurs naturally in the soil of the earth and in the waters of the ocean. It plays a vital role in the health of the thyroid gland, which is found in the neck, and regulates the production of hormones that control metabolism and the state of the heart, among other things.

It is also decisive for the good condition of the brain and for its development during the growth stages. Iodine intake during pregnancy is related to brain development in fetuses. A deficiency during pregnancy increases the chances of growing up with a lower IQ and other intellectual delays.

The recommended daily intake of iodine during pregnancy is 220 mcg and 290 mcg during breastfeeding. In comparison, the recommended amount in non-pregnant adults is 150 mcg per day.


Vegans can reduce the risk of iodine deficiency simply by turning to one ingredient in their dishes: iodized sea salt. As for the dose, 2 g of iodized sea salt per day would be sufficient. Too much iodine can have a negative effect on the thyroid gland. That is why you should not take iodine supplements without the recommendation of your doctor.


The intake of other nutrients was similar in vegans and non-vegans. Four vegans and three non-vegans suffered from iron deficiency, but the difference is not considered significant in groups of 36 people.

On the other hand, the researchers highlight the health advantages of a balanced vegan diet, such as those associated with a higher intake of fiber, vitamin E, vitamin K and folic acid, and lower levels of cholesterol. The study has shown that the vegan diet can provide as much energy as the omnivore and that there is no problem with protein or calcium.


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