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Hypothyroidism And Obesity

diagram of a thyroid gland and larynx

Obesity both causes and is a result of numerous health problems. Joint pain, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are all well-known physical health effects of obesity. Over the past ten years, researchers have been exploring the relationship between hypothyroidism and obesity as well.

What Is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a gland in the neck, does not produce enough hormones. The disease occurs most often in women over 50, and the symptoms are not immediately evident. Many patients who suffer from hypothyroidism experience symptoms for years before they are tested for the disease.

Symptoms of the disease include

  • Fatigue
  • Sluggishness
  • Constipation
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Forgetfulness
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Joint pain  

Hypothyroidism is generally not life-threatening, but it does make life unpleasant for the person who suffers from it.

What Is The Relationship Between Hypothyroidism and Obesity?

In addition to the above symptoms, hypothyroidism also causes patients to gain weight because the hormones produced by the gland help regulate metabolism. The two hormones that the thyroid produces, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, help the body determine how quickly it should metabolize fat and carbohydrates.

Bernadette Biondi, a researcher at the University of Naples in Italy, reported that in a study of over 27,000 people those with hypothyroidism had higher body mass indexes (BMI) than did those without hypothyroidism.  

Biondi reports that in obese children and adults, the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is produced at higher levels than in those people who do not suffer from obesity. The pituitary gland produces TSH, which tells the thyroid how many hormones to produce and release into the blood stream. After subjects lose weight, however, the hormone levels decrease and eventually return to normal.

Even though Biondi and other researchers have acknowledged a relationship between hypothyroidism and obesity, researchers like Verma, Javaraman, Kumar, and Modi suggest that we must still determine whether hypothyroidism causes obesity or obesity causes hypothyroidism.

Serious Problems

Even though many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are not life threatening, the combination of the disease with obesity can be. According to the National Thyroid Institute and a study conducted at Rotterdam, women who have hypothyroidism are more likely to have blockages in their aorta and suffer from heart attacks.

Diabetes and heart disease, two diseases that are commonly associated with obesity are also associated with hypothyroidism. The relationships between heart disease and obesity, diabetes and obesity, and heart disease/diabetes and hypothyroidism make these conditions more dangerous.

Though researchers are still uncertain about the cause and effect relationship between hypothyroidism and obesity, research has shown that the two often exist simultaneously and can affect patients’ quality of life.

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