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Nutrition. 1996 Feb;12(2):100-6.

Flavonoids extracted from fonio millet (Digitaria exilis) reveal potent antithyroid properties.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biochemistry, Faculty of Sciences, University of Reims, France.


Digitaria exilis (fonio) is a tiny variety of millet commonly eaten by inhabitants of semiarid regions. A sample of fonio collected right in the middle of a severely iodine-depleted goitrous endemic was submitted to phytochemical investigations in order to assess the potential contributory roles played by vegetable molecules to the goitrogenic processes. The total content of flavonoids amounts to 500 mg/kg of the edible whole cereal grains. Their extraction and identification fail to detect the C-glycosylflavones described in other millet varieties but point out the presence of apigenin (A = 150 mg/kg) and of luteolin (L1 = 350 mg/kg). Ten percent of A and 80% of L1 are present in free form, whereas the remaining 90% of A and 20% of L1 are bound as O-glycosylflavones. Both A and L1 aglycones manifest strong anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPO) activities, resulting in a significant reduction of the hormonogenic capacity of this enzyme. In addition, L1 significantly depresses the cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase, implying a concomitant overproduction of the thyrotropin-dependent nucleotide. These last unreported data are regarded as counteracting to some extent the TPO-mediated goitrogenic properties of L1. Since fonio is devoid of other molecules likely to interfere with the thyroid function, our results are directly and casually attributed to A and L1 found in the customary diet.

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