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Thyroid hormone and obesity

Pearce, Elizabeth N.

Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity: October 2012 - Volume 19 - Issue 5 - p 408–413
doi: 10.1097/MED.0b013e328355cd6c
THYROID: Edited by Lewis E. Braverman

Purpose of review To review several of the most recent and most important clinical studies regarding the effects of thyroid treatments on weight change, associations between thyroid status and weight, and the effects of obesity and weight change on thyroid function.

Recent findings Weight decreases following treatment for hypothyroidism. However, following levothyroxine treatment for overt hypothyroidism, weight loss appears to be modest and mediated primarily by loss of water weight rather than fat. There is conflicting evidence about the effects of thyroidectomy on weight. In large population studies, even among euthyroid individuals, serum thyroid-stimulating hormone is typically positively associated with body weight and BMI. Both serum thyroid-stimulating hormone and T3 are typically increased in obese compared with lean individuals, an effect likely mediated, at least in part, by leptin. Finally, there is no consistent evidence that thyroid hormone treatment induces weight loss in obese euthyroid individuals, but thyroid hormone analogues may eventually be useful for weight loss.

Summary The interrelationships between body weight and thyroid status are complex.

Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Elizabeth N. Pearce, MD, MSc, Boston University School of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Nutrition, 88 East Newton Street, Evans 201, Boston, MA 02118, USA. Tel: +1 617 414 1348; fax: +1 617 638 7221; e-mail:

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