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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Thyroid, gland of energy production

testing thyroid action, Popular Science Magazine, December 1931

Likening one energy machine to another, the thyroid may be compared to the accelerator of an automobile. That is a rough and superficial comparison because an accelerator lets in more of the fuel to be burned up, while the thyroid makes the fuel more combustible. It thus resembles more the primer, for a rich mixture of gasoline and air burns at a greater velocity than a poor one. But the action of thyroid could really be simulated only by some substance that could be introduced into the best possible of gasoline mixtures, to increase its combustibility by a hundred per cent or more. For that is what thyroid will do to our food. Nor has it only this destructive or combustion side. Withal there is at the same time a constructive action, for the process frees energy to be used for heat, motion or other need. The thyroid, therefore, in addition to its role as an accelerator, acts, too, as the efficient lubricator for energy transformations. So we see it as accelerator, lubricator and transformer of our energies.

The Gland of Energy Production

The isolation of thyroxin has made possible the determination of the influence of the thyroid hormone upon the evolution of energy in any higher animal organism. There is, for every individual, a constant, known as the metabolic rate, or the combustion rate, a reading of the rate at which his cells are consuming material for heat. The metabolic rate is thus a gauge of the energy pressure within the organism. It may be calculated by measuring the amount of carbon dioxide gas exhaled during a unit of time, and the number of calories of heat radiated by the skin simultaneously. A simplified device has lately rendered it practicable to make actual determinations by a few five-minute readings of the rate of oxygen absorption by the lungs. Plummer, also connected with the Mayo Foundation, has shown that what would amount to less than a grain of the thyroxin would more than double the amount of energy produced in a unit of time. To be exact, one milligram of thyroxin increases the metabolic rate two per cent. That illustrates some of the power of the internal secretion of the thyroid and its importance to normal life.

source: "The Glands regulating Personality", Louis Berman, 1922

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