Anomalously low endemic goiter prevalence among Efe pygmies



The existence of endemic goiter, caused by iodine deficiency and the presence of a dietary goitrogen, has been noted in eastern Zaire by a number of authors (De Visscher et al.: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 21:175–188, 1961; Delange et al.: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 34:1059, 1972). In the Ituri Forest of Huate-Zaire, two distinct populations, the Efe (pygmy) and Lese (Bantu), live in association with each other and have similar diets. The goiter survey reported here documents differences in goiter prevalence and severity between the nomadic pygmy and village-living Bantu populations. While the Efe have an overall goiter prevalence of 9.4%, the Lese have a goiter prevalence of 42.9%. Furthermore, Efe women living in Lese villages and subsisting on a Lese diet have a prevalence of goiter similar to that of forest-living Efe women. Village-living individuals born of Efe mothers and Lese fathers have a prevalence of goiter greater than that of pure Efe but less than that of Lese. While our data cannot exclude dietary explanations for the difference in goiter prevalence between the Efe and Lese, they do support the hypothesis that the Efe possess an adaptation to an iodine-deficient environment that does not result in the development of goiters.