Milk alternative drinks and too low iodine levels

Milk alternative drinks and iodine concern
on Wed 4 Oct


One of the latest food fads to gain popularity has been the move away from dairy products and towards substitute products.


Some clean eating plans even advocate removing dairy products from the diet even though they are the most efficient natural source of calcium. However it’s not solely the lack of calcium that can cause a worrying health backlash in terms of things like osteoporosis, but a lack of iodine.


Most people are unaware that iodine is essential for the manufacture of the hormone thyroxine which in turn controls our metabolic rate as well as our growth and development.


It is also crucial during pregnancy as it is key to the normal brain development of the foetus.


In response to an increase in milk-alternative drinks being sold in the UK, the University of Surrey has just completed a study of 47 different products (none marketed specifically at children) which derived from


  • Soya
  • Coconut
  • Almond
  • Oat
  • Rice
  • Hazelnut and
  • Hemp


The aim was to measure their iodine content against conventional and organic milk.  The results were disturbing with the average iodine content of the milk alternatives at just 1.7% of that in milk.


To give you an idea, the average recommended iodine intake is 150mcg daily. This should go up to 200mcg daily during pregnancy.  One glass of a milk alternative product is providing just 2 mcg daily.


It’s a worrying trend, milk consumption in this country has dropped by 30% over the past twenty years – partly because of farming ethics, partly because of allergies but also because there are an increasing number of alternatives on the market. You might like to read about my 2011 study of iodine deficiency in the UK


Most consumers of these drinks will not realise that they have excluded  the main source of iodine in this country but should certainly consider the regular inclusion of dairy products in their diet or ensure they have iodine from other sources such as those listed by the British Dietetic Association


The Surrey University study as originally published is here


If you would like to find out more about Iodine listen to this Radio 4 programme in which I took part in January 2018 - Awesome Iodine


Although every effort is made to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional.

As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals Dr Vanderpump cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can he be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link.


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