Isocaloric carbohydrate deprivation induces protein catabolism despite a low T3-syndrome in healthy men

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2001 Jan;54(1):75-80. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2265.2001.01158.x.


Dietary carbohydrate content is a major factor determining endocrine and metabolic regulation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relation between thyroid hormone levels and metabolic parameters during eucaloric carbohydrate deprivation. We measured thyroid hormone levels, resting energy expenditure (by indirect calorimetry) and urinary nitrogen excretion in six healthy males after 11 days of three isocaloric diets containing 15% of energy equivalents as protein and 85%, 44% and 2% as carbohydrates. In contrast to the high and intermediate carbohydrate diets, carbohydrate deprivation decreased plasma T3 values (1.78 +/- 0.09 and 1.71 +/- 0.07 vs. 1.33 +/- 0.05 nmol/l, respectively, P < 0.01), whereas reverse T3, T3 uptake and free T4 levels increased simultaneously compared to the other two diets. TSH values were not different among the three diets. Although dietary carbohydrate content did not influence resting energy expenditure, carbohydrate deprivation increased urinary nitrogen excretion (10.91 +/- 0.67 and 12.79 +/- 1.14 vs. 15.89 +/- 1.10 g/24 h, respectively, P = 0.03). Eucaloric carbohydrate deprivation increases protein catabolism despite decreased plasma T3 levels. Because it has previously been shown that starvation decreases plasma T3 levels, resting energy expenditure and nitrogen excretion, these discordant endocrine and metabolic changes following carbohydrate deprivation indicate that the effects of starvation on endocrine and metabolic regulation are not merely the result of carbohydrate deprivation.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitrogen / urine
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Triiodothyronine / blood*
  • Triiodothyronine / deficiency
  • Triiodothyronine, Reverse / blood


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Triiodothyronine, Reverse
  • Thyrotropin
  • Nitrogen
  • Thyroxine