Thyroid UK

Cobalt and Goitre

Cobalt and Goitre

Yesterday I mentioned that cobalt may be another important factor for thyroid. This paper is what set me off on that track.

It is interesting to consider that vitamin B12 (which is called cobalamin with various prefixes) has an atom of cobalt at its heart. I wonder if there is a connection?

Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2014 Sep;29(3):307-11. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2014.29.3.307. Epub 2014 Sep 25.

The Association between Cobalt Deficiency and Endemic Goiter in School-Aged Children.

Sanjari M1, Gholamhoseinian A2, Nakhaee A3.

Author information



In Iran, an iodine deficiency control program was initiated in 1989 by iodizing salt. Despite this program, goiters have remained an endemic condition in most parts of Iran. Thus, it is possible that other factors aside from iodine deficiency may contribute to endemic goiter. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between cobalt deficiency and endemic goiter in a region of Iran with a high prevalence of goiter.


A cross-sectional study was conducted among school children aged 9 to 11 years in the city of Kerman, Iran. In the first phase of the study, a multistage, proportional-to-size, cluster sampling method was used to screen 5,380 out of 29,787 students. After the screening phase, 170 students (130 goitrous and 40 nongoitrous) were randomly selected, and serum and urine specimens were obtained. We measured thyroid function, serum cobalt level, and urinary iodine excretion. Univariate and multiple logistic regression analyses were performed.


The prevalence of grade 2 goiters was 34.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 31.5 to 42.5), with both sexes being equally affected. The weight and body mass index of goitrous subjects was significantly lower (P<0.001) than those of nongoitrous subjects. The serum cobalt levels were lower in goitrous subjects than in nongoitrous subjects (4.4±2.9 µg/L vs. 6.4±2.7 µg/L). The urinary iodine levels were also lower in goitrous subjects than in nongoitrous subjects (198.3±108.3 µg/L vs. 270.2±91.1 µg/L). Multiple regression analysis showed that only cobalt deficiency, not iodine deficiency, significantly contributed to the presence of goiter (odds ratio, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.61 to 0.99; P=0.042).


Cobalt deficiency may be an important independent predicator for goiter in endemic regions, especially areas in which goiters persist despite salt iodization programs.


Cobalt; Goiter; Iodine deficiency; Thyroid; Urine Iodine

PMID: 25309789 [PubMed] Free full text

The full paper is available.


8 Replies

Rod, is there nothing these pesky thyroids will do to get attention? Feed 'em sufficient iodine (not too much) but they grow a goiter anyway because they secretly need cobalt.

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We have had, give or take, a century of serious research. And we still get big surprises.

One feature that rarely gets mentioned is this:

Innervation of the thyroid

Principal innervation of the thyroid gland derives from the autonomic nervous system. Parasympathetic fibers come from the vagus nerves, and sympathetic fibers are distributed from the superior, middle, and inferior ganglia of the sympathetic trunk. These small nerves enter the gland along with the blood vessels. Autonomic nervous regulation of the glandular secretion is not clearly understood, but most of the effect is postulated to be on blood vessels, hence the perfusion rates of the glands.

The innervation seems to be ignored. The blood flow seems to be ignored. Yet it appears that both might have some importance - but no-one really knowns what!


gotta love that vagus nerve. It's all over.

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There are quite a few human enzymes that also have a need for cobalt. See: Eur J Biochem. 1999 Apr;261(1):1-9. Cobalt proteins. Kobayashi M1, Shimizu S.

Also this list is not comprehensive and there is some evidence that trace cobalt is needed for thyroxine production whereas excess cobalt inhibits iodine uptake. I don't know the reaction involved however. Nonetheless, a cobalt-linked enzyme deficiency seems to be a factor in thyroid hormone synthesis.

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Thank you - interesting, as always.


Fascinating. I had never heard of the vagus nerves. I felt a goiter coming(did not know what it was at the time). I felt a sensation on the right of my neck and then fluid moving towards my throat. A swelling ensued and diagnosed as multi nodular goiter. Blood tests indicated autoimmune thyroiditis.


Helvella, interesting article. I have a goiter and am.severely allergic to cobalt...wonder if its a connection or coincidence 😌


Indeed - very interesting but I wish I had something helpful to say. Thanks for posting these snippets can prove helpful to others.


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