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One of the revelations about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been that her doctor put her on the pork-derived natural product Armour Thyroid instead of the artificial thyroid hormone product Synthroid for her hypothyroidism. Is Armour better?

American presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have released some of their medical revelation, most of it posing few surprises. However, many American doctors took note when it was revealed that Hillary Clinton has hypothyroidism that is being treated with Armour Thyroid, a natural product made from pork thyroid glands, rather than the more usual treatment, Synthroid. The revelation that Mrs. Clinton was receiving a treatment for thyroid disease that has been used for hundreds of years drew both praise and derision.

"I am glad to hear she is taking Armour Thyroid rather than synthetic substitutes which contain only T4 and not T3. I always prescribed Armour for my patients because it is more natural, safer and more effective,"

wrote one doctor on MedPage Today.

"Armour Synthroid? One would think we could do better for our former First Lady,"

wrote another.

What's Armour Thyroid?

Dried thyroid extracts have been used as medicine for centuries, but the first mention of them in English-language medical journals appeared in 1891 when Dr. George Redmayne Murray of the United Kingdom described a method for using thyroid glands from sheep for making a thyroid hormone injection that could be used for treating a severe form of hypothyroidism called myxedema. Nearly 30 years later he published a report of a patient who had been successfully treated for myxedema for decades on the sheep thyroid extract.

American doctors started experimenting with pig thyroids as a source of the thyroid hormone, and in 1934 the Armour (not Armor) company (the same company that makes canned pork products today) started collecting and drying pork thyroids for use as medicine, as a way to reduce slaughterhouse waste and increase profits. Armour thyroid is the best known form of dried thyroid in the United States, although two other companies also make it. For another 30 years, Armour Thyroid was the treatment of choice for hypothyroidism in the United States. Then it was replaced by a synthetic hormone called levothyroixine, or Synthroid.

What Is the Difference Between Armour Thyroid and Synthroid?

In healthy people, the thyroid gland makes a hormone called thyroxine, or T4 (because the molecule contains four iodine atoms). Other tissues on the body convert it into triiodothyronine, also known as T3 (because its molecule contains three iodine atoms). Tissue can't use T4 until its enzymatically converted into T3.

Synthroid is just T4. The body has to convert Synthroid into T3 before it can perform its functions. Armour Thyroid contains both T4 and T3. It can be used in the body right away. To make the enzymes that convert T4 into T3, the body needs copper, selenium, and zinc. If there are shortages of these minerals, there will be shortages of the active form of thyroid hormone. Armour Thyroid has a distinctly "piggy" odor and doesn't taste good, but it gets to work a lot faster than Synthroid. Why wouldn't doctors prefer Armour Thyroid to Synthroid?

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