The effects of green tea extract catechins on the rat thyroid were examined in a 13-week feeding study and subsequent 2-,4- and 8-week studies. Commercially available polyphenon-60 (P-60) which contains green tea extract catechins at 66.2% was used as a source of catechins. A basic diet containing different concentrations of P-60 was used for experiments. In the 13-week study, 10 rats of each sex were administered diets containing P-60 at 0 (control), 0.625, 1.25, 2.5 and 5.0%. Goiters were observed in the 13-week test. The mean thyroid weight of rats fed a diet containing 5.0% of P-60 (5.0% group) significantly increased to 444% of the control in males and to 304% of the control in females. Histological examinations of the thyroid of the 5.0% group revealed marked hypertrophy and/or hyperplasia of the follicles, some with depletion of colloid and some with rich colloid, and formation of a fibrous capsule. Slight hypertrophy of follicular cells was observed in male rats fed a diet containing 1.25% of P-60 (1.25% group) and female rats fed a diet containing 2.5% of P-60 (2.5% group). Degree and incidence of thyroid lesions were higher in males than in females in the 1.25, 2.5 and 5.0% groups. In the 2-8-week studies, five rats of each sex were given diets containing 0 (control) and 5.0% of P-60. In the 5.0% group, the mean thyroid weight in males significantly increased to 161% of the control as early as 2 weeks and increased to 357% of the control at 8 weeks. Histologically, these goiters were also associated with follicular cell hypertrophy/hyperplasia as in the 13-week study. The degree and incidence of thyroid lesions were higher in males than in females. These results indicate that dietary administration of the green tea extract catechins at high doses induced goiters in rats, and this may be due to antithyroid effects of catechins. In the 13-week study, the no-observed effect level (NOEL) of green tea extract catechins for F344 rats based on histological changes of the thyroid was considered to be 0.625% in males and 1.25% in females in the diet, respectively.