4363.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/12/2013   
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Contents >> Biomedical Measures >> Iodine biomarker



Iodine is a trace element that is essential for development and growth of the human body and is required to synthesise thyroid hormones. Having an adequate iodine intake is especially important for foetal development of the brain, which is one of the reasons women of child bearing age are advised to increase their iodine intake before conception, during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding1.

National Iodine Guidelines

Data on iodine levels has been been collected in the National Health Measures Survey (NHMS) to provide national estimates and report on the effectiveness of the mandatory iodine fortification standard, developed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

The iodine test measures the concentration of iodine in the urine that has been excreted from the body, at the time of the test (spot sample). Spot urine samples are not a sufficient measure for individual status, however these results can be used to assess the population iodine status.1


Iodine results were obtained for persons aged 5 years and over, who agreed to participate in the NHMS and provided a urine sample. Fasting was not required for this test.


A urine sample was collected from participants and iodine levels were measured at the Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology (SNP) laboratory.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers a population iodine deficient if the median urinary iodine concentration (UIC) is less than 100 μg/L. They also recommend that no more than 20% of the population have iodine concentrations below 50 μg/L.2

Further information about the analysis method and machines used to measure iodine levels is available in Excel spreadsheet format in the Downloads page of this product.

Data items

The data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads tab of this product.


Points to be considered when interpreting data for this topic include the following:

  • Urinary iodine concentration from a single spot sample is not a sufficient measure to assess an individual's iodine status, thus comparing the iodine data items to other items at the individual level should be done with caution.
  • There are a number of different test methods to measure iodine levels and each test method may produce different results. The data from this topic should therefore be used with caution when comparing iodine results from other studies using a different test method.

Comparability with other surveys

The NHMS is the first ABS survey to collect biomedical data on iodine levels. Iodine data has been collected in other non-ABS surveys. However, caution must be taken when interpreting results due to the differences in scope, assay and the instrument used, and any thresholds applied in the final analysis.

In the NHMS, urinary iodine levels were measured using the inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) method. Many other studies such as the 2003–04 Australian National Iodine Nutrition Study (NINS)3 used the Sandell-Kolthoff spectrophotometric (S-K) method to measure iodine levels.

The World Health Organization and the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD) determined a set of cut-offs using the S-K method to define if a population is iodine deficient. However, no agreed cut-offs have been developed yet for the new ICP-MS method. Therefore, the cut-offs for the S-K method were applied to the ICP-MS results in the NHMS to determine iodine deficiency.

Research has shown there to be good agreement between the two methods overall, but the ICP-MS method may be more sensitive in detecting iodine deficiency than the S-K method.4 Therefore any comparison of iodine deficiency between the NHMS and studies that used the S-K method method should be applied with caution.


1 Gibson RS 2005, Principles of Nutritional Assessment, 2nd ed, New York: Oxford University Press.
2 WHO/UNICEF/ICCIDD 2007, Assessment of iodine deficiency disorders and monitoring their elimination: a guide for programme managers, 3rd ed. Geneva (Switzerland): World Health Organization, <http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2007/9789241595827_eng.pdf>, Last accesssed 18/11/2013.+
3 Li M, Eastman CJ, Waite KV, Ma G, Zacharin MR, Topliss DJ, Harding PE, Walsh JP, Ward LC, Mortimer RH, Mackenzie EJ, Byth K and Z Doyle 2006, Are Australian children iodine deficient? Results of the Australian National Iodine Nutrition Study, Medical Journal of Australia; 184(4): 165-169, <https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2006/184/4/are-australian-children-iodine-deficient-results-australian-national-iodine>, Last accessed 15/11/2013.
4 Li M, Ma G, Guttikonda K, Boyages SC, Waite K and CJ Eastman 2001, The re-emergence of iodine deficiency in Australia. Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr, 10:200-203.

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