Cross-sectional analysis of trace element status in thyroid disease

Sebastian Mehl, Qian Sun, Christian L. Görlich, Julian Hackler, Johannes F. Kopp, Kostja Renko, Jens Mittag, Tanja Schwerdtle, Lutz Schomburg*

*Corresponding author for this work
4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The synthesis of thyroid hormone depends on a set of trace elements, most importantly selenium and iodine. The dietary supply with certain micronutrients is limited in many areas of the world, including central Europe and large parts of Asia and Africa. Moreover, both thyroid disease risk and therapy effects are modulated by trace element supply and status. Objective: Assessment of trace element status in thyroid patients in a European metropolis. Material and Methods: Adult patients visiting a medical praxis in Berlin, Germany, were enrolled into a cross-sectional analysis, and serum samples were obtained from thyroid patients (n = 323) with different conditions including goitre, hypothyroidism, malignancy or autoimmune thyroid disease. Trace elements (iodine, selenium, copper and zinc) were assessed by ICP-MS/MS or total reflection X-ray analysis, along with two protein biomarkers of selenium status (selenoprotein P, glutathione peroxidase), and compared to the clinical phenotype. Results: The patients displayed relatively low serum zinc and selenium concentrations as compared to a set (n = 200) of healthy subjects (zinc; 1025+/-233 vs. 1068+/−230 μg/L, p < 0.01, selenium; 76.9+/18.8 vs. 85.1+/−17.4 μg/L, p < 0.0001). A high fraction of patients (37.5%) was classified as selenium-deficient (serum selenium concentrations <70 μg/L), in particular the patients with thyroid malignancy (59%). Serum copper was not different between the groups, and total serum iodine concentrations were unrelated to thyroid disease. Explorative statistical analyses yielded no significant interactions between the trace elements and disease parameters, except for free thyroxine inversely correlating to the copper/selenium ratio. Conclusions: In adult thyroid patients, there is no relation of circulating copper, iodine, selenium or zinc concentrations to thyroid hormone. However, a large fraction of German thyroid patients displays a considerable selenium deficit, known to constitute a disease risk potentially impairing convalescence and aggravating autoimmune disease processes. It appears advisable to testing thyroid patients for selenium deficiency, and once diagnosed, an increased supply via dietary counselling or active supplementation should be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126430
JournalJournal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology
Publication statusPublished - 03.2020

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 205-17 Endocrinology, Diabetology, Metabolism


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