Because the thyroid gland, an important part of the endocrine system, plays a major role in the body’s metabolism, many people believe that thyroid function is linked to obesity.
An overactive thyroid gland, or hyperthyroidism, is often linked to weight loss while an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, is often linked to weight gain, according to WebMD
. However, the relationship between thyroid function and obesity isn’t well understood and further research is needed.
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WebMD goes on to summarize the findings of a study that examined thyroid function using a blood test called the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test and its relationship to changes in weight. Higher TSH values correspond to an underactive thyroid gland, and the researchers discovered that, on average, women whose TSH levels increased the most gained 5 pounds. Men whose TSH levels increased the most gained an average of 3 pounds.
A paper in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism says
that misguided attempts to help obese patients lose weight involved administration of thyroid hormone, a treatment that failed in most cases. This represents further evidence that the relationship between thyroid function and weight isn’t a simple one.
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The American Thyroid Association says that massive weight gain
associated with obesity is rarely seen with hypothyroidism. Instead, it is typically only 5 to 10 pounds of weight gain and this is only seen in patients with severe hypothyroidism. In addition, weight gain alone should not be the main factor in determining if a patient has hypothyroidism. Instead, an underactive thyroid should be suspected only if the patient has multiple symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Dr. Caroline S. Fox, a researcher and medical officer at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, told WebMD
, “While it may be tempting to blame the thyroid when weight increases, weight gain has many causes.”
If you feel you have gained an excessive amount of weight despite your best efforts to keep it off and you have other symptoms associated with thyroid disease, it is important to talk with your physician to find out if thyroid testing is appropriate.
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