Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone and Mild Cognitive Impairment: Results of the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study

J Alzheimers Dis. 2016;49(3):797-807. doi: 10.3233/JAD-150561.


Background: Although some studies reported on the association of serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) concentration and cognition, only one population-based study investigated the association of TSH concentration and mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Objective: To investigate the gender-specific association of low- and high-normal TSH concentrations with MCI in euthyroid participants.

Methods: Analysis sample 1 included 2,563 euthyroid participants (aged 50-80 years) from the second examination of the population-based Heinz Nixdorf Recall study. Gender-specific TSH quintiles (Q1 low, Q2-Q4 middle, Q5 high TSH concentration) were determined and group comparisons of age- and education-adjusted mean scores were performed for all cognitive subtests. Analysis sample 2 included 378 participants with MCI and 931 cognitively normal participants. MCI was diagnosed according to previously published MCI criteria. Multivariate logistic regression models were performed using TSH quintiles (Q2-Q4 as reference) to assess the association of low- and high-normal TSH concentration with MCI. Models were performed unadjusted and adjusted for sociodemographic and cardiovascular risk factors.

Results: Group comparisons showed significant differences only in the immediate recall of the verbal memory task in women. Only women showed a strong association of high-normal TSH concentration with MCI (unadjusted: odds ratio 2.09, 95% confidence interval 1.29-3.37, full adjusted: 1.86, 1.06-3.27). There was no association with low-normal TSH concentration in women and no association of either low- or high-normal TSH concentration with MCI in men.

Conclusions: These results suggest that women with high-normal TSH concentration might be at higher risk of cognitive decline. This needs to be confirmed in the longitudinal analysis.

Keywords: Aging; gender; mild cognitive impairment; population-based studies; thyroid function; thyroid-stimulating hormone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / blood*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Thyrotropin / blood*


  • Thyrotropin