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Multiple nutritional factors and thyroid disease, with particular reference to autoimmune thyroid disease

  • Margaret P. Rayman (a1)


Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT) and Graves’ disease (GD) are examples of autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD), the commonest autoimmune condition. Antibodies to thyroid peroxidase (TPO), the enzyme that catalyses thyroid-hormone production and antibodies to the receptor for the thyroid-stimulating hormone, are characteristic of HT and GD, respectively. It is presently accepted that genetic susceptibility, environmental factors, including nutritional factors and immune disorders contribute to the development of AITD. Aiming to investigate the effect of iodine, iron and selenium in the risk, pathogenesis and treatment of thyroid disease, PubMed and the Cochrane Library were searched for relevant publications to provide a narrative review. Iodine: chronic exposure to excess iodine intake induces autoimmune thyroiditis, partly because highly-iodinated thyroglobulin (Tg) is more immunogenic. The recent introduction of universal salt iodisation can have a similar, although transient, effect. Iron: iron deficiency impairs thyroid metabolism. TPO is a haem enzyme that becomes active only after binding haem. AITD patients are frequently iron-deficient since autoimmune gastritis, which reduces iron absorption and coeliac disease which causes iron loss, are frequent co-morbidities. In two-thirds of women with persistent symptoms of hypothyroidism despite appropriate levothyroxine therapy, restoration of serum ferritin above 100 µg/l ameliorated symptoms. Selenium: selenoproteins are essential to thyroid action. In particular, the glutathione peroxidases remove excessive hydrogen peroxide produced there for the iodination of Tg to form thyroid hormones. There is evidence from observational studies and randomised controlled trials that selenium, probably as selenoproteins, can reduce TPO-antibody concentration, hypothyroidism and postpartum thyroiditis. Appropriate status of iodine, iron and selenium is crucial to thyroid health.


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Corresponding author: Professor Margaret P. Rayman, email


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Multiple nutritional factors and thyroid disease, with particular reference to autoimmune thyroid disease

  • Margaret P. Rayman (a1)


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