The impact of replacing milk with plant-based alternatives on iodine intake: a dietary modelling study

Katie Nicol, Anne Nugent, Jayne Woodside, Kathryn H. Hart, Sarah C. Bath

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Cow’s milk is the primary source of iodine in the UK, but consumption of plant-based milk alternatives (PBMA) is increasing and these products are often not fortified with iodine. We evaluated the impact that replacing current milk consumption with PBMA would have on iodine intake.

We used data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2016–2019) for children (1.5–10 years), girls 11–18 years, and women of reproductive age (WRA). We used a dietary modelling approach with scenarios using brand-level iodine-fortification data (0, 13, 22.5, 27.4 and 45 µg/100 mL). Relative to usual diet, we calculated change in iodine intake, and the proportion with intake below the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI) or above the upper limit.

For all groups, replacement with PBMA, either unfortified or fortified at the lowest concentration, resulted in a meaningful decrease in iodine intake, and increased the proportion with intake < LRNI; compared to usual diet, iodine intake reduced by 58% in children 1.5–3 years (127 vs. 53 µg/day) and the proportion with intake < LRNI increased in girls (11–18 years; 20% to 48%) and WRA (13% to 33%) if an unfortified PBMA was used. Replacement of milk with PBMA fortified at 27.4 µg/100 mL had the lowest impact.

Replacing milk with commercially available PBMAs has potential to reduce population iodine intake, depending on the fortification level. PBMAs fortified with ≥ 22.5 and < 45 µg iodine/100 mL would be required to minimize the impact on iodine intake. Research is needed on the impact of total dairy replacement.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Early online date11 Jan 2024
Publication statusEarly online date - 11 Jan 2024


  • Fortification
  • Iodine
  • Milk
  • Milk alternatives
  • Plant-based milk


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