Micronutrients, mostly iodine and selenium, are required for thyroid hormone synthesis and function. Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones and its deficiency is considered as the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world. Nowadays about 800 million people are affected by iodine deficiency disorders that include goiter, hypothyroidism, mental retardation, and a wide spectrum of other growth and developmental abnormalities. Iodine supplementation, under form of iodized salt and iodized vegetable oil, produced dramatic improvements in many areas, even though iodine deficiency is still a problem not only for developing countries. In fact, certain subpopulations like vegetarians may not reach an adequate iodine intake even in countries considered iodine-sufficient. A reduction in dietary iodine content could also be related to increased adherence to dietary recommendations to reduce salt intake for preventing hypertension. Furthermore, iodine intakes are declining in many countries where, after endemic goiter eradication, the lack of monitoring of iodine nutrition can lead to a reappearance of goiter and other iodine deficiency disorders.
Three different selenium-dependent iodothyronine deiodinases (types I, II, and III) can both activate and inactivate thyroid hormones, making selenium an essential micronutrient for normal development, growth, and metabolism. Furthermore, selenium is found as selenocysteine in the catalytic center of enzymes protecting the thyroid from free radicals damage. In this way, selenium deficiency can exacerbate the effects of iodine deficiency and the same is true for vitamin A or iron deficiency. Substances introduced with food, such as thiocyanate and isoflavones or certain herbal preparations, can interfere with micronutrients and influence thyroid function. Aim of this paper is to review the role of micronutrients in thyroid function and diseases.