Iodine Deficiency - Another Reason to Avoid Fast Food?

New research released today at the AACE Meeting indicates another reason to avoid fast food; it may also be lacking in appropriate amounts of iodine.


BOSTON - April 22, 2010 — With one in four Americans reportedly consuming fast food on a daily basis, new research released today at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) 19th Annual Meeting & Clinical Congress indicates another reason to avoid fast food; it may also be lacking in appropriate amounts of iodine.

Adequate iodine intake is essential for hormone development in the human body. It is also especially important in pregnant and lactating women for normal fetal and neonatal neurodevelopment.

Research collected from the NHANES III (1988-1994) data compared to NHANES I (1971-1974) reported a 50% decrease in median urinary iodine. Median urinary iodine is typically used to evaluate population-based iodine intake.

“We wanted to identify the contributing factors to this 20-year decrease,” Dr. Sun Young Lee of Boston Medical Center, one of the study’s primary authors said. “Given the high consumption of fast food in America, we chose to assess the iodine content of meals from two fast food chains.”

Dr. Lee and her fellow researchers examined several comparable items from Burger King and McDonald’s. Two restaurants from each of the fast food chains were selected in the Boston area at random. Two menu items from each category were purchased and the iodine content of each homogenized item was measured.

“Burger King endorses the use of iodized salt in their food, while McDonald’s does not.” Dr. Lee said. “Despite this, the iodine content between the two appeared to be comparable, and insufficient.”

The average amounts of iodine in each item selected were low, ranging from 2 micrograms in a small portion of McDonald’s French fries to 25 micrograms in a Burger King’s Whopper™ with cheese. The milkshakes and fish sandwiches showed higher iodine contents (147 to 164 microgram per a small vanilla milkshake and 40 to 70 micrograms per one fish sandwich), as expected due to the known high iodine contents in fish and milk. Burger King’s chicken sandwich showed unexpectedly high iodine content of average 163 microgram per sandwich, which is most likely due to high iodine content in the bread from iodate used as a dough conditioner.

“A large portion of Americans consume fast food as a major source of nutrition,” Dr. Lee said. “However these foods, except most items containing milk and fish, are not good sources of iodine, an integral component in the human body, especially for pregnant women.”

To view a copy of Dr. Lee's abstract, please click here.


1Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Source: The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists