A help website for Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome has claimed that those with Irish ancestry are more likely to suffer from thyroid problems as a result of the Great Hunger in the mid-1880s.

WilsonSyndrome.com claims that in a study of the ancestry/nationality of those who are more predisposed to suffer with WTS, they discovered it was most prevalent among those countries who have endured famine in the past.

The existence of WTS is already a cause for some debate. Not recognized as a medical condition by evidence-based medicine, it is regarded as an alternative medicine concept and not accepted as a medical diagnosis.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “proponents of Wilson's syndrome believe it to be a mild form of thyroid hormone deficiency (hypothyroidism) that responds to treatment with a preparation of a thyroid hormone called triiodothyronine (T-3).

“However, the American Thyroid Association has found no scientific evidence supporting the existence of Wilson's syndrome.”

In general, those who believe the syndrome exists attribute it as the cause to a collection of nonspecific symptoms in people whose thyroid hormone levels are normal.

The American Thyroid Association describes Wilson's syndrome as at odds with established knowledge of thyroid function, concluding: “The diagnostic criteria for Wilson's syndrome — low body temperature and nonspecific signs and symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability, hair loss, insomnia, headaches and weight gain — are imprecise.

“There's no scientific evidence that T-3 performs better than placebo in people with nonspecific symptoms, such as those described in Wilson's syndrome.”

Nonetheless, there are those who support the idea of WTS’s existence and they claim that it is a leftover problem of famines past.

About 200 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease. The problem is sometimes passed down from generation to generation. The main problems identified are hypothyroidism (thyroid under activity) and hyperthyroidism (thyroid over activity).

WilsonSyndrome.com asserts that as thyroid system problems “tend to run in families ... Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome, in specific, also appears to have a hereditary component.”

Some who believe in WTS cite it as a “starvation coping mechanism gone amuck,” meaning that the bodies of those who have suffered from prolonged periods of hunger have altered the way in which their thyroid works, to slow down their metabolism and preserve energy.

In certain cases, they claim, following these periods of hunger the thyroid continues to function abnormally and that this trait has been passed down to their ancestors causing thyroid problems in our current generation.

WilsonSyndrome.com adds, “Interestingly, the patients who seem to be the most predisposed towards developing Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome (earlier in life with less provocation) seem to predominantly belong to certain nationalities such as, Scotch, Irish, Welsh, American Indian and Russian (as well as from other countries which have been plagued with famine).”

Read more: Irish town built a memorial to thank Native Americans who helped during Famine

Furthermore, they claim that those who are most at risk are people who have both Irish and Native American ancestry.

Putting the Irish even further at risk, according to their research, is the tendency of patients to have red hair and freckles.

“Patients who have a greater tendency towards developing Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome frequently have a light complexion with freckles, light-colored eyes, and red hair (or red highlights such as auburn colored hair),” the site writes.

“Irish and Scot people frequently have these characteristics of course, but there are people from other countries who also seem to have a tendency towards red hair, light-colored skin, and light-colored eyes who seem to be prone to Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome (e.g. northern Italy).”

Although the accuracy of the Syndrome diagnosis itself is also in question, the claim does raise some interesting questions of the lasting effects of famine of the ancestors of those who suffered.

The WST believers state that it’s not impossible that as the Irish fled from hunger and struggled to survive during the years of famine in the 1880s, that those who survived slowed down their own metabolism. However, they say, it may not have been as easy to return to the original energy breakdown process once the hunger had ceased.