Soy isoflavones inducing overt hypothyroidism in a patient with chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis: a case report

J Med Case Rep. 2017 Sep 5;11(1):253. doi: 10.1186/s13256-017-1418-9.


Background: Many people have thyroid conditions that make them susceptible to hypothyroidism. If the foods they eat may interfere with the production of thyroid hormone, which can lead to development of serious hypothyroidism. The danger of health drinks should always be noted.

Case presentation: A 72-year-old Japanese woman was previously diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis caused by a goiter and had an elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone level (6.56 μIU/ml), a high anti-thyroid peroxidase antibody level (>600 IU/ml), and a high antithyroglobulin level (> 4000 IU/ml) but normal levels of free triiodothyronine (3.08 pg/ml) and thyroxine (1.18 ng/ml). She presented to our hospital with sudden-onset general malaise, edema, and hoarseness with an elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (373.3 μIU/ml) level and very low triiodothyronine (< 0.26 pg/ml) and thyroxine (0.10 ng/ml) levels. It was determined that for 6 months she had been consuming a processed, solved health drink ("barley young leaf") in amounts of 9 g/day, which included soybean and kale powder extract. Hypothyroidism might be affected by ingredients of health drinks. She discontinued consumption of the health drink immediately and began taking 12.5 μg of levothyroxine. The amount of levothyroxine was gradually increased every 3 days up to 100 μg. At day 61, her thyroid-stimulating hormone level had decreased (6.12 μIU/ml), her free triiodothyronine (2.69 pg/ml) and thyroxine (1.56 ng/ml) levels had increased, and her general condition was improved. Among risky foods lowering thyroid function, some experimental studies have revealed that isoflavones reduce thyroid function. Therefore, we measured the presence of isoflavones in the patient's frozen serum with thin-layer chromatography. After she discontinued consumption of the health drink, two components quickly disappeared, and the other three components gradually decreased. On the basis of developing solvent composition and a positive ferric chloride reaction in thin-layer chromatography experiment, the five ingredients that disappeared or decreased were highly suspected to be soy isoflavones.

Conclusions: This case emphasizes that consuming health drinks that include soy isoflavone powder extracts can lead to severe hypothyroidism.

Keywords: Barley young leaf; Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis; Hypothyroidism; Isoflavones; Soybean; Thin-layer chromatography; kale.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Hashimoto Disease / complications*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism* / blood
  • Hypothyroidism* / drug therapy
  • Hypothyroidism* / etiology
  • Hypothyroidism* / physiopathology
  • Isoflavones / adverse effects*
  • Soybeans / adverse effects*
  • Thyroid Function Tests / methods
  • Thyrotropin / analysis*
  • Thyroxine* / administration & dosage
  • Thyroxine* / blood
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Isoflavones
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine