Background: Triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) as the main secretion products of the thyroid affect nearly every human tissue and are involved in a broad range of processes ranging from energy expenditure and lipid metabolism to glucose homeostasis. Metabolomics studies outside the focus of clinical manifest thyroid diseases are rare. The aim of the present investigation was to analyze the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations of urinary metabolites with serum free T4 (FT4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Methods: Urine Metabolites of participants of the population-based studies Inter99 (n = 5620) and Health2006/Health2008 (n = 3788) were analyzed by 1H-NMR spectroscopy. Linear or mixed linear models were used to detect associations between urine metabolites and thyroid function.
Results: Cross-sectional analyses revealed positive relations of alanine, trigonelline and lactic acid with FT4 and negative relations of dimethylamine, glucose, glycine and lactic acid with log(TSH). In longitudinal analyses, lower levels of alanine, dimethylamine, glycine, lactic acid and N,N-dimethylglycine were linked to a higher decline in FT4 levels over time, whereas higher trigonelline levels were related to a higher FT4 decline. Moreover, the risk of hypothyroidism was higher in subjects with high baseline trigonelline or low lactic acid, alanine or glycine values.
Conclusion: The detected associations mainly emphasize the important role of thyroid hormones in glucose homeostasis. In addition, the predictive character of these metabolites might argue for a potential feedback of the metabolic state on thyroid function. Besides known metabolic consequences of TH, the link to the urine excretion of trigonelline, a marker of coffee consumption, represents a novel finding of this study and given the ubiquitous consumption of coffee requires further research.