Associations between adiposity and indicators of thyroid status in children and adolescents

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In adults, obesity is associated with abnormalities of thyroid function; there are fewer studies in paediatric cohorts.


To examine associations of weight and adiposity with indices of thyroid function and thyroid-related metabolic factors in children.


A sample of 1203 children without obesity (body mass index [BMI] < 95th percentile; N = 631) and with obesity (BMI ≥ 95th percentile; N = 572), age 5–18 years, had height and weight measured (to calculate BMI-Z score for age and sex) and had blood collected in the morning for thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free thyroxine (FT4) and leptin. A subset (N = 829) also underwent measurement of fat mass by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Analyses examined associations of TSH and FT4 with adiposity and obesity-related conditions accounting for sociodemographic factors.


Thyroid-stimulating hormone was positively related to BMIz and fat mass (both p-values < 0.001). FT4 was negatively related to BMIz and fat mass (both p-values < 0.001). TSH was positively correlated to leptin (p = 0.001) even after accounting for fat mass.


Paediatric obesity is associated with higher TSH and lower FT4 concentrations and with a greater prevalence of abnormally high TSH. Leptin concentrations may in part explain obesity's effects on thyroid status, perhaps through leptin's effects on TSH secretion.

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