The Relationship Between Thyroid Function and Body Composition, Leptin, Adiponectin, and Insulin Sensitivity in Morbidly Obese Euthyroid Subjects Compared to Non-obese Subjects

Clin Med Insights Endocrinol Diabetes. 2021 Feb 5;14:1179551420988523. doi: 10.1177/1179551420988523. eCollection 2021.


Background/objectives: Thyroid function tests (TFTs) changes in obese people have been studied with increasing interest, however, studies have been inconsistent hence it remains poorly understood. We compared the TFTs of morbidly obese euthyroid Saudi subjects with non-obese controls and then we examined the influence of leptin, adiponectin, and insulin resistance on TFTs.

Subjects/methods: Fifty-five euthyroid obese subjects attending bariatric surgery clinic and 52 non-obese age-and gender-matched controls were recruited. We measured body weight, BMI, body composition, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), Free T4 (FT4), Free T3(FT3), thyroid antibodies, fasting leptin, adiponectin, and lipid profile. Insulin resistance was quantified by HOMA-IR. Data are presented as mean ± SEM.

Results: Mean BMI was 45.6 ± 1.5 and 23.2 ± 0.5 kg/m2, for the obese and non-obese controls, respectively, P value < 0.001. Mean TSH was 2.7 ± 0.18 mIU/L in obese subjects and 1.7 ± 0.13 mIU/L (0.27-4.2) in the non-obese controls, respectively, P value .014. Mean FT3 was 3.9 ± 0.1 pmol/L (3.1-6.8) in obese subjects compared to 5.0 ± 0.1 pmol/L in non-obese controls, respectively, P value 0.001, however, FT4 was similar in the 2 groups. In the whole group (N = 107), BMI correlated positively with TSH and negatively with FT3. Leptin correlated negatively with both FT4 and FT3 in the non-obese group only while none of the TFTs correlated with HOMA-IR or adiponectin in either group. Binary logistic regression showed that each 1 unit increase in TSH increased the odds of becoming obese by 12.7, P value 0.009, 95 C.I. (1.9-85.0). Conversely, each - unit increase in FT3 decreased the odds of becoming obese by 0.2, P value 0.023, 95% C.I. (0.05-0.80).

Conclusions: We report a small increase in TSH and a small decrease in FT3 within the normal range in obese subjects compared to non-obese controls. We also report a positive correlation between TSH and BMI with increased odds ratio of becoming obese with the increase in TSH and decrease in FT3. These changes may be either causally related or adaptive to the obesity state. FT4 and FT3 seem to correlate with leptin (but not with adiponectin or HOMA-IR) in the non-obese controls only. Larger mechanistic studies are needed to further elucidate the interesting association between obesity and TFTs.

Keywords: Thyroid function; adiponectin; insulin resistance; leptin; obesity.