Thyroid hormones affect reactions in almost all pathways of lipid metabolism. It has been reported that plasma free fatty acid (FFA) concentration in hypothyroidism is generally within the normal range. In this study, however, we show that plasma FFA concentration in some hypothyroid patients is higher than the normal range. Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction in these individuals were less severe than those of patients with lower plasma FFA concentrations. From these findings we hypothesized that the change in FFA concentration must correlate with thyroid function. Using an animal model, we then examined the effect of highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid ethyl ester (EPA-E), a n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid derived from fish oil, on thyroid function in 1-methyl-2-imidazolethiol (MMI)-induced hypothyroid rats. Oral administration of EPA-E inhibited reduction of thyroid hormone levels and the change of thyroid follicles in MMI-induced hypothyroid rats. These findings suggest that FFA may affect thyroid functions and EPA-E may prevent MMI-induced hypothyroidism.
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