Mona Lisa gets a 21st century diagnosis


  • Dawn O'Shea
  • Univadis Medical News
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The iconic Mona Lisa did not have hypothyroidism, says art lover and paediatric endocrinologist Michael Yafi.

Writing in the journal Hormones-International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Dr Yafi presents a second opinion on a recent article suggesting Lisa Gherardini, the woman in the painting, had severe hypothyroidism with psychomotor retardation. The proposer said her yellow skin, the enlarged appearance of her thyroid gland and lack of eyebrows support his theory, and that mysterious smile was attributed to associated psychomotor retardation and muscle weakness.

However, Dr Yafi, director of paediatric endocrinology at the McGovern Medical School, University of Texas, disagrees.  

He questions the observation that the woman had a goitre, which he says is depicted in art from ancient civilisations and would have been more pronounced and clearly demarcated in the painting. He adds that many of da Vinci's paintings depict women without eyebrows. Furthermore, he says, long-term hypothyroidism would have severely affected fertility, but Gherardini is known to have had five children. Instead, he attributes her skin colouration to the passage of time.

Dr Yafi says he felt a “personal responsibility” to defend ‘Lisa’. “I couldn't have the public thinking she had hypothyroidism, when it seems to me, she was euthyroid,” he said.

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