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Immune System/Autoimmune Disorders | Antioxidants Beneficial for Graves’ Disease

Antioxidants Beneficial for Graves’ Disease

Adults with Graves’ disease (GD) who take antioxidants (vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and selenium) in addition to prescription medication may help normalize thyroid function faster than with medication alone, according to a study in Clinica Chimica Acta (2004:341:55–63). This may mean that taking daily supplemental antioxidants will help people with Grave’s disease feel better more rapidly.

GD is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism (increased thyroid function). It is an autoimmune disease, in which antibodies bind to the thyroid gland and cause an overproduction of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) and a decrease in TSH (the hormone responsible for stimulating production of thyroid hormones). As a result, excess amounts of thyroid hormones speed up metabolism and cause the body to utilize more nutrients and oxygen. Some studies suggest that increasing metabolism may cause more free-radical damage and contribute to the severity of GD symptoms. Symptoms include swelling of the thyroid gland (goiter), bulging eyeballs (exophthalmos), fatigue, heart palpitations, rapid heart rate, insomnia, sweating, weight loss, increased appetite, and nervousness or tremor. Treatment consists of using propylthiouracil (PTU) or methimazole (Tapazole®), which block the production of thyroid hormones. In some cases, radioactive iodine is used to block thyroid hormone production; surgical removal of the thyroid gland may be necessary to control symptoms.

In the new study, 57 adults with GD were randomly assigned to receive methimazole with or without the addition of 200 mg of vitamin C, 36 IU of vitamin E, 60 mcg of selenium, and 6 mg of beta-carotene per day for eight weeks. Blood levels of TSH, free T3, free T4, and selenium were measured initially and after four and eight weeks of treatment. The activity of glutathione peroxidase (GPx), an important selenium-dependant enzyme that scavenges free radicals, was also measured in the blood at the same intervals.

Those receiving supplemental antioxidants in addition to methimazole attained normal thyroid function faster than those treated with only methimazole. The free-T3 and free-T4 levels after four and eight weeks were significantly lower in the antioxidant group than in the medication-only group. TSH and blood levels of selenium were also significantly increased in the antioxidant group, whereas no change in TSH was observed in those only treated with methimazole. GPx activity increased in both groups; however, the activity was significantly higher among those taking antioxidants.

Antioxidants may play an important role in the treatment of GD by preventing free-radical damage to thyroid cells. Since a mixture of antioxidants was used, it is unclear how much each nutrient contributes to reducing free radicals in the thyroid. It is also not clear if using higher amounts of antioxidants would produce more favorable results. Since antioxidants were only used in conjunction with medication to treat GD, it is unknown whether antioxidants alone would be as effective. More research is necessary to clarify these issues.

Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.

Copyright © 2004 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.

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