Thyroid function and obesity in children and adolescents

Horm Res. 2000;54(1):14-9. doi: 10.1159/000063431.


The aim of this retrospective study was to investigate the frequency of thyroid dysfunction as assessed by TSH, T3 and T4 in a large cohort of 290 obese and 280 healthy children. In addition, thyroid autoantibodies were measured in random subgroups of 123 obese and 80 control children, iodine excretion in 50 and thyroid volume in 23 of the obese children. Elevated TSH levels (>4 U/l) were found in 22 obese children (7.5%), but only in one control (0.3%). The medians of TSH and T3 concentrations were normal, but significantly higher in the obese group than in the controls, while T4 levels did not differ. The prevalence of positive thyroid autoantibodies was increased in the obese children, for the most part in those with elevated TSH. There was no evidence for iodine deficiency as a cause of the average increase of TSH. We conclude that in childhood obesity TSH and T3 levels are significantly increased; in most cases, however, these increases are not accounted for by thyroid autoimmunity or iodine deficiency. As a consequence, TSH elevations with normal thyroid hormone levels in obese children don't need any thyroxine treatment, if thyroid disorders were definitely excluded beforehand.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iodide Peroxidase / immunology
  • Male
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Reference Values
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thyroid Function Tests
  • Thyroid Gland / anatomy & histology
  • Thyroid Gland / physiology*
  • Thyroid Gland / physiopathology
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Triiodothyronine / blood


  • Autoantibodies
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyrotropin
  • Iodide Peroxidase
  • Thyroxine