Although the number of iodine-deficient countries has been reduced by almost 50 % over the last decade, it still remains a frequently misunderstood health problem. The most devastating effects of iodine deficiency occur during fetal development and childhood, periods in which sufficient iodine delivery remains critical. Besides the determination of thyroid size, the concentration of urinary iodine, serum thyroid-stimulating hormone and serum thyroglobulin are useful biomarkers to assess iodine status. Severe iodine deficiency is associated with neurological complications, cretinism, endemic goitre development, hypothyroidism, decreased fertility and increased infant mortality. The recommended iodine supplementation strategies are based on correction of iodine deficiency, close monitoring and evaluation of iodine administration, cooperation of the salt industry, training of local health care professionals and education of the population. Besides the multiple beneficial effects of supplementation, we present in this review a critical look at the possible side effects.