Thiocyanate in food and iodine in milk: From domestic animal feeding to improved understanding of cretinism

P. Laurberg, S. Andersen, N. Knudsen, Lars Ovesen, S.B. Nohr, I.B. Pedersen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Transport of iodine in the mammary gland into breast milk plays a central role in various fields of prevention of thyroid diseases. First, a sufficient content of iodine in the mother's milk is necessary for normal brain development in the breastfed child. This is attained by expression during lactation in the mammary gland of the sodium iodide symporter (NIS), also responsible for iodine transport in the thyroid. Milk iodine content varies with the iodine intake of the mother, and urinary iodine excretion in groups of mothers seems to be a valuable indicator of the iodine status of their breastfed children. Second, iodine in dairy products provides a considerable part of iodine intake in many populations. Thiocyanate from rapeseed feeding of cows decreases milk iodine content, probably by competitive inhibition of NIS in the mammary gland. Alterations in feeding of dairy cows may alter the iodine content of consumer milk, and this may influence the risk of thyroid diseases in the population. Thiocyanate inhibition of iodine transport into milk may also be operative in humans with a high thiocyanate intake. This could further impair iodine status in breastfed children in low-iodine intake areas of the world. It can be speculated that a low-iodine content of mother's milk because of inhibition of NIS in the mammary gland may be one factor of importance for development of myxedematous cretinism.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)897-902
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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