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Eduardo Gaitán and Héctor Merino


Epidemiological findings from the city of Cali, Colombia, support the hypothesis that water supply and iodine intake are not the only dietary factors which influence the magnitude of the goitre endemia. Experiments were conducted in rats to determine whether casein has a counteracting effect on the goitrogenic and antithyroid activities of methimazole (MMI) and goitrogenic water extracts (GWE) from the endemic area of the Cauca Valley. Female albino rats (Charles River, DC strain) 100–110 g initial weight, receiving 12 μg of iodine daily, were divided into three groups and put on special diets: protein-free, 8% casein, or 60% casein, respectively. Each group (24 rats) was then divided into three subgroups. Subgroup one received goitrogen-free water and was used as a control. Subgroup two was administered MMI, 50 μg/day/rat. Subgroup three was given per animal a daily amount of GWE equivalent in antithyroid potency to 50 μg of MMI. At 77 days, the thyroid glands were studied for weight, 131I uptake, and 127I concentration. Animals on the protein-free diet showed significantly (P < 0.05 – < 0.01) larger thyroid glands per 100 g body weight and lower thyroidal 4 h 131I uptake and 127I-concentrations than rats on casein diets. These differences were significantly increased (P < 0.01) by the administration of MMI and GWE. All the effects were completely reversed by the 60 % casein diet showing no differences between control rats and those on MMI or GWE. Rats on 8 % casein showed intermediate values between those of animals on protein-free and 60% casein diets; differences were still present between the control as against the MMI or GWE groups. The results indicate that under these experimental conditions, a poor-protein diet impairs the thyroidal transport of iodine, decreases its concentration in the thyroid and is accompanied by an enlargement of the gland. Under these circumstances, the action of thiourea-like antithyroid agents is enhanced. The administration of protein reverses these alterations and decreases the action of such antithyroid agents. Whether the changes observed are due to a direct action of casein on the thyroid and/or to effects of malnutrition on the metabolism of antithyroid compounds remains to be determined.

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Eduardo Gaitan, Robert C Cooksey, Jim Legan, Raymond H Lindsay, Sidney H Ingbar, and Geraldo Medeiros-Neto

Gaitan E, Cooksey RC, Legan J, Lindsay RH, Ingbar SH, Medeiros-Neto G. Antithyroid effects in vivo and in vitro of babassu and mandioca: a staple food in goiter areas of Brazil. Eur J Endocrinol 1994;131:138–44. ISSN 0804–4643

Babassu (Orbignya phalerata), a palm-tree coconut fruit, mixed with mandioca (Manihot utilissima) is the staple food of people living in the endemic goiter area of Maranhao in Brazil, where goiter prevalence among schoolchildren was still 38% in 1986 despite an adequate iodine intake in most of the population. Therefore, the question arose as to whether or not the ingestion of babassu alone or mixed with mandioca contributed to the persistence of endemic goiter in this area of Brazil. In this investigation we examined the potential antithyroid effects of babassu and mandioca by means of in vivo studies in Sprague-Dawley rats, in vitro studies in porcine thyroid slices and using a purified porcine thyroid peroxidase (TPO) system. Samples of various edible parts of babassu and mandioca flour were homogenized and extracted in goitrogen-free water (GFW) for in vivo experiments, and in methanol (100 g/l), GFW or 0.06 mol/l phosphate buffer (pH 7.0) for in vitro experiments. The edible parts of babassu produced significant in vivo antithyroid effects (p < 0.05–< 0.001) in rats on a high iodine intake (14 μg I day−1 · rat−1), as well as distinct and reproducible antithyroid and anti-TPO activities in both in vitro systems, their action being similar to that of the thionamide-like antithyroid drugs propylthiouracil and methimazole. The antithyroid action of aqueous extracts of mandioca flour in vivo and in thyroid slices in vitro was also evident by significant (p < 0.01–< 0.001) and pronounced inhibition of the iodide organification process; however, in contrast to babassu, methanol and aqueous extracts of mandioca flour caused little inhibition in vitro in the TPO system. Little or no effect was produced by babassu or mandioca on thyroid iodide transport by thyroid slices or in vivo in the rat, indicating that neither thiocyanate nor perchlorate-like compounds are responsible for their antithyroid effects. Results of this study provide direct experimental evidence, both in vivo and in vitro, of antithyroid effects of babassu and mandioca, supporting the hypothesis that this staple food is responsible, at least in part, for the persistence of goiter in the iodine-supplemented endemic region of Maranhao in Brazil.

Eduardo Gaitan, Endocrinology Section (151), VA Medical Center, 1500 E. Woodrow Wilson Drive, Jackson, MS 39216, USA