Classical endocrine diseases causing obesity

Front Horm Res. 2008;36:212-228. doi: 10.1159/000115367.


Obesity is associated with several endocrine diseases, including common ones such as hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome to rare ones such as Cushing's syndrome, central hypothyroidism and hypothalamic disorders. The mechanisms for the development of obesity vary in according to the endocrine condition. Hypothyroidism is associated with accumulation of hyaluronic acid within various tissues, additional fluid retention due to reduced cardiac output and reduced thermogenesis. The pathophysiology of obesity associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome remains complex as obesity itself may simultaneously be the cause and the effect of the syndrome. Net excess of androgen appears to be pivotal in the development of central obesity. In Cushing's syndrome, an interaction with thyroid and growth hormones plays an important role in addition to an increased adipocyte differentiation and adipogenesis. This review also describes remaining rare cases: hypothalamic obesity due to central hypothyroidism and combined hormone deficiencies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Catecholamines / physiology
  • Cushing Syndrome / complications
  • Cushing Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Endocrine System Diseases / complications*
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamic Diseases / complications
  • Hypothyroidism / complications
  • Hypothyroidism / physiopathology
  • Leptin / physiology
  • Male
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications
  • Thyroid Function Tests
  • Triiodothyronine / physiology


  • Catecholamines
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Leptin
  • Triiodothyronine