Some studies have shown the possible role of protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) in persistence of endemic goiter in iodine replenished areas. The present study was conducted to assess the association between PEM and goiter in schoolchildren of Isfahan, Iran.
In a cross-sectional study using multistage cluster random-sampling, 2331 schoolchildren with age ranged from 6-13 years old with a female to male ratio of 1.60 were enrolled. Thyroid size was examined by two endocrinologists for goiter detection. Children were considered goitrous if they had palpable or visible goiters according to World Health Organization (WHO)/United Nations children's Fund/International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency criteria. Weight and standing height were measured using the standard tools and anthropometric indices were calculated using the WHO AnthroPlus software developed by the World Health Organization. Height-for-age Z-scores (HAZ), weight-for-age Z-scores (WAZ) and body mass index (BMI) for age were calculated for each child. Children with a HAZ, WAZ or BMI-for-age of Z-score < –2.0 were classified as stunted, underweight or thin, respectively. Blood samples were drowned to measure serum thyroid hormones.
Overall, 32.9% of subjects were classified as goitrous. Weight, height, BMI, WAZ and BMI-for-age Z-score were significantly lower in children with goiter than in children who did not have goiter (P < 0.05). The prevalence of goiter in thin children was higher than that in non-thin ones (48.4 vs. 31.6%, odds ratio [OR]: 2.02, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.52-2.69, P < 0.001). Although 33.4% of non-stunted children were goitrous, 31% of stunted ones had goiter (P = 0.5). According to the logistic regression model taking sex and age as covariates, the only significant parameter affecting palpable goiter detection was thinness (OR = 2.13, 95% CI: 1.22-3.69, P < 0.001).
In the present study, we found a high prevalence of goiter in children who were malnourished. It seems that PEM may play a role in the still high prevalence of goiter in this region.