Thyroid disease and lipids

Thyroid. 2002 Apr;12(4):287-93. doi: 10.1089/10507250252949405.


The composition and the transport of lipoproteins are seriously disturbed in thyroid diseases. Overt hypothyroidism is characterized by hypercholesterolaemia and a marked increase in low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and apolipoprotein B (apo A) because of a decreased fractional clearance of LDL by a reduced number of LDL receptors in the liver. The high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels are normal or even elevated in severe hypothyroidism because of decreased activity of cholesteryl-ester transfer protein (CETP) and hepatic lipase (HL), which are enzymes regulated by thyroid hormones. The low activity of CETP, and more specifically of HL, results in reduced transport of cholesteryl esters from HDL(2) to very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and intermediate low-density lipoprotein (IDL), and reduced transport of HDL(2) to HDL(3). Moreover, hypothyroidism increases the oxidation of plasma cholesterol mainly because of an altered pattern of binding and to the increased levels of cholesterol, which presents a substrate for the oxidative stress. Cardiac oxygen consumption is reduced in hypothyroidism. This reduction is associated with increased peripheral resistance and reduced contractility. Hypothyroidism is often accompanied by diastolic hypertension that, in conjunction with the dyslipidemia, may promote atherosclerosis. However, thyroxine therapy, in a thyrotropin (TSH)-suppressive dose, usually leads to a considerable improvement of the lipid profile. The changes in lipoproteins are correlated with changes in free thyroxine (FT(4)) levels. Hyperthyroidism exhibits an enhanced excretion of cholesterol and an increased turnover of LDL resulting in a decrease of total and LDL cholesterol, whereas HDL are decreased or not affected. The action of thyroid hormone on Lp(a) lipoprotein is still debated, because both decrease or no changes have been reported. The discrepancies are mostly because of genetic polymorphism of apo(a) and to the differences between the various study groups. Subclinical hypothyroidism (SH) is associated with lipid disorders that are characterized by normal or slightly elevated total cholesterol levels, increased LDL, and lower HDL. Moreover, SH has been associated with endothelium dysfunction, aortic atherosclerosis, and myocardial infarction. Lipid disorders exhibit great individual variability. Nevertheless, they might be a link, although it has not been proved, between SH and atherosclerosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hyperthyroidism / metabolism
  • Hypothyroidism / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Thyroid Diseases / metabolism*
  • Thyroid Diseases / physiopathology
  • Thyroid Hormones / metabolism


  • Thyroid Hormones