[Obesity, energy regulation and thyroid function: is borderline elevated TSH-level the cause or secondary phenomenon of obesity]

Nuklearmedizin. 2008;47(5):181-7.
[Article in German]


Several population-based studies have shown a significant association between TSH-level and BMI (body mass index). About 30% of the rest energy expenditure are regulated by thyroid hormones, which generated the hypothesis that thyroid hormone substitution with TSH-titration into the lower reference levels may prevent body weight gain. The opposite effect of thyroid hormones is appetite stimulation, which may be responsible for body weight gain in case of substitutive medication. The association between TSH and BMI has become a complex topic in the light of the endocrine activity of adipocytes. Adipocytes are not a silent fat mass, but increase the hormone level of leptin, which influences neurones in the hypothalamus, the thyreotropic axis and TSH secretion. BMI is positively correlated with serum leptin. Elevated leptin levels, endogenous in individuals with high BMI or exogenous after leptin injection for treatment of hypothalamic amenorrhoea, shift TSH in the upper reference level. Borderline elevated TSH levels are reversible in case of body weight reduction in obese persons. It remains unclear whether high TSH levels or high leptin level are responsible for obesity or represent secondary phenomenon. Recommendation for daily practice: Borderline elevated TSH-levels in obese patients will decrease in case of body weight reduction without hormone medication. After definitive treatment of hyperthyroidism patient's history for use of carbohydrates (increased during hyperthyroidism) should be noticed and substitution with thyroid hormones aims at TSH in the lower reference level. As body weight gain is observed in all TSH groups, a special concept for prevention and therapy of obesity (diet, daily exercise, behaviour training) should be initiated early and additionally to medication.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiopathology
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Leptin / physiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Reference Values
  • Thyroid Function Tests*
  • Thyrotropin / blood*
  • Weight Gain


  • Leptin
  • Thyrotropin