The effects of total fasting for 31 +/- 10 days followed by re-alimentation with an 800 calorie diet on thyroid function, i.e. T4,T3,rT3,RT3U (resin T3 uptake), and TSH, and on TBG levels in serum were studied sequentially in obese hospitalized patients (N=18). Additionally, cortisol, growth hormone, prolactin, parathyrin and free fatty acids were followed as hormonal and metabolic parameters, respectively. Further, CBG, transferrin, alpha 2-haptoglobin and complement C'3 were measured as representatives of other serum proteins. Results before fasting: T4, T3, TBG, cortisol, CBG, alpha 2-haptoglobin and complement C'3 of the obese patients were elevated when compared with healthy normal weight controls, whereas rT3, T4/TBG ratio, T3/TBG ratio, TSH, coritsol/cbg ratio, growth hormone, prolactin, parathyrin and transferrin of the obese group were normal. RT3U and fT4 index were decreased in the obese patients. Results during fasting: Significant decreases were observed during fasting for the following parameters -- T3, TBG, T3/TBG ratio, transferrin, alpha 2-haptoglobin complement C'3. rT3, T4/TBG ratio, RT3U, fT4 index and FFA increased. T4, tsh response to TRH stimulation, cortisol, CBG, cortisol/cbg ratio, parathyrin, growth hormone and prolactin did not change. Results during re-alimentation: T3, TBG, T3/TBG ratio, TSH response to TRH, transferrin, alpha 2-haptoglobin and complement C'3 increased. Conversely, fT3, RT3U, FFA, cortisol and cortisol/cbg ratio decreased whereas the other parameters did not change.
1) There is no evidence for primary hypothyroidism in obese patients during prolonged fasting and re-alimentation. 2) The rapid decrease of T3 and increase of RT3U after initiation of fasting are not fully explained by the observed slower decreases in TBG. 3) The alterations of T3, rT3 and RT3U resemble in their kinetics the changes in FFA levels. 4) Fasting reduced the levels of only certain serum proteins, interestingly TBG, transferrin, alpha 2-haptoglobin and complement C'3, all of which, except transferrin, are elevated in obesity. 5) The magnitude of the observed decreases does not suggest any clinically relevant deficiencies in serum proteins. 6) Re-alimentation reverses rapidly all observed changes.