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May 25

The importance of iodine – are you drinking enough milk?

Ensuring the safety of the food we eat is of paramount importance. This blog continues our series highlighting how scientists at LGC are addressing measurement challenges to support regulation in the food industry and protect human health in advance of the Government Chemist Conference, Science supporting trust in food, on 21-22 June 2016.

Happy swiss cow on green grassIodine is an essential element naturally found in some foods. Insufficient amounts of iodine in the diet results in low levels of thyroid hormones, which are responsible for regulation of metabolism. In pregnant women and infants iodine is of particular importance as it plays a critical role in brain development. The primary sources of iodine for most people are milk and dairy products but due to increases in dairy intolerance and changes in diet, milk-products are being increasingly substituted for non-milk alternatives.

To identify the impact that such dietary changes might have on iodine levels across the population, an understanding of the levels of iodine naturally present in milk is necessary. This includes the effects of seasonal variations or fat content and any processing effects of pasteurisation which might reduce the iodine content. These variations are being investigated by Maria O’Kane, a final-year PhD student at the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, Ulster University, with milk samples collected over a 12-month period. However, these differences must be measured accurately in order to properly determine the influence different conditions have on iodine content.

Within its role as the UK’s Designated Measurement Institute for chemical and bio-measurement, scientists at LGC have developed a high accuracy quantitative method (inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry) for the analysis of iodine in milk and milk-products to support the regulation on iodine levels in infant formulas. Using this expertise, LGC were able to support the work being done at Ulster University, providing the analytical capability required to determine the levels of iodine in milk under a variety of conditions.

Of the collaboration, Maria said:

LGC facilitated my visit to the laboratory in Teddington and enabled me to undertake analysis of the milk samples collected as part of my PhD using high accuracy ICP-MS. The expert staff at LGC supported my learning and enabled me to develop a greater knowledge and understanding of ICP-MS analysis.

Maria’s work will inform the UK’s understanding of current iodine intake and support future research in this area. This clearly demonstrates the impact the UK’s Designated Measurement Institute for chemical and bio-measurement can have on real-world problems, protecting human health and ensuring the safety of our food.

 

 

The topic of food safety and security will be discussed at the Government Chemist Conference, Science supporting trust in food on 21-22 June 2016. #trustinfoodGC16

LGC, the UK’s Designated Measurement Institute for chemical and bio-measurement

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