Diet-induced alterations in thyroid hormone concentrations have been found in studies of long-term (7 mo) overfeeding in man (the Vermont Study). In these studies of weight gain in normal weight volunteers, increased calories were required to maintain weight after gain over and above that predicted from their increased size. This was associated with increased concentrations of triiodothyronine (T3). No change in the caloric requirement to maintain weight or concentrations of T3 was found after long-term (3 mo) fat overfeeding. In studies of short-term overfeeding (3 wk) the serum concentrations of T3 and its metabolic clearance were increased, resulting in a marked increase in the production rate of T3 irrespective of the composition of the diet overfed (carbohydrate 29.6 +/- 2.1 to 54.0 +/- 3.3, fat 28.2 +/- 3.7 to 49.1 +/- 3.4, and protein 31.2 +/- 2.1 to 53.2 +/- 3.7 microgram/d per 70 kg). Thyroxine production was unaltered by overfeeding (93.7 +/- 6.5 vs. 89.2 +/- 4.9 microgram/d per 70 kg). It is still speculative whether these dietary-induced alterations in thyroid hormone metabolism are responsible for the simultaneously increased expenditure of energy in these subjects and therefore might represent an important physiological adaptation in times of caloric affluence. During the weight-maintenance phases of the long-term overfeeding studies, concentrations of T3 were increased when carbohydrate was isocalorically substituted for fat in the diet. In short-term studies the peripheral concentrations of T3 and reverse T3 found during fasting were mimicked in direction, if not in degree, with equal or hypocaloric diets restricted in carbohydrate were fed. It is apparent from these studies that the caloric content as well as the composition of the diet, specifically, the carbohydrate content, can be important factors in regulating the peripheral metabolism of thyroid hormones.
E Danforth Jr, E S Horton, M O'Connell, E A Sims, A G Burger, S H Ingbar, L Braverman, A G Vagenakis