Can Iodine Help Me Lose Weight?

A friend at work is gaining weight (she needs to exercise and eat right), but what can I say. She read somewhere having iodine in your diet will help you lose weight. How true is this? I don’t remember seeing anything about it in my health books, but I read them years ago.

There’s a short answer to this — and a long answer. Here’s the short answer: No, iodine — more than likely — will not help someone lose weight. The only instance where it will help is when iodine deficiency is what is causing the person to gain weight in the first place. This is possible if a person doesn’t use salt (and doesn’t get any in processed foods), avoids seafoods and doesn’t supplement with a multivitamin/mineral. In this day and age, you don’t find many Canadians eating like this.

Iodine is an essential mineral needed for the thyroid gland to make the thyroid hormone. The thyroid is the gland that regulates metabolism. When the thyroid gland isn’t working up to snuff, it leads to a condition called hypothyroid. Hypothyroid symptoms include fatigue, weakness, coarse and/or dry hair, sometimes falling out, dry rough skin, complete intollerance to cold, muscle cramps and aches, constipation, depression, memory loss, low libido and, of course, weight gain.

People who aren’t getting enough iodine could start manifesting hypothyroid symptoms including weight gain. They also may start to experience a swelling of the thyroid gland, leading to a large swollen neck referred to as goiter (type it into Google images for some lovely pictures).

But there are a number of different possible causes for hypothyroidism other than iodine deficiency. Ironically, cutting calories can lead to an under-functioning thyroid gland. It doesn’t make sense to self diagnose an iodine deficiency based on one symptom (weight gain) and start medicating yourself with iodine. First, you need to see a practitioner to assess whether there actually is a thyroid issue and then it has to be determined that it’s caused by a lack of iodine.

It’s much more likely that your friend is gaining weight because he or she isn’t eating properly. A diet based on a lot of refined carbohydrates, like sugar and flour, that’s high in bad fats from processed foods and vegetable oil and is full of allergens like gluten, soy and corn (which are in pretty much all processed foods) will lead to weight gain in a good chunk of the population. Iodine isn’t going to do anything in that situation.

I know it’s tempting to look for easy answers when we start to look a little puffier around the edges, but the best way to get a body into shape is to not fill it with garbage. Adding iodine through food choices or supplementing isn’t going to address the root cause of weight gain if the cause is a crummy diet.

The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef, living in Toronto. Doug specializes in private in-home holistic cooking lessons.

If you’re iodine deficient, here are some other ways to get this important nutrient into your diet.