Association between Serum Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone Levels and Visceral Adipose Tissue: A Population-Based Study in Northeast Germany

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Background: Abdominal obesity is a major driver for adverse medical conditions. While an interaction between adipose tissue and thyroid function is thought to exist, to our knowledge, no study has examined the effect of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) on visceral adipose tissue (VAT) in a population-based context. Objective: We determined an association between serum TSH levels and VAT. Methods: A sample of 1,021 female and 956 male adults aged 20-79 years was drawn from registry offices in the cross-sectional, population-based Study of Health in Pomerania Trend (SHIP Trend) in Northeast Germany from 2008 to 2012. Our main exposure was serum TSH levels. Our main outcome was VAT measured using magnetic resonance imaging. The possibly mediating role of leptin on the TSH-VAT association was also assessed. Results: A total of 1,719 participants (87.9%) had serum TSH levels within the reference range. The mean volume of VAT was 5.33 liters for men and 2.83 liters for women. No association between TSH and VAT (β = 0.06, 95% CI: -0.02, 0.14) was observed, and there were no differences detected between sexes. VAT was strongly associated with leptin with a greater effect in women than in men. Leptin was strongly associated with TSH. Conclusions: No association between TSH and VAT was observed. Other biomarkers such as leptin may play a role in the relationship between thyroid function and metabolic risk.

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