Obesity in Children May Trigger Thyroid Disease
In September of 2008, the editors at Medical Only questioned a possible link between hypothyroidism and weight gain in children. This week, we will review the results of a study that explored a possible connection between obesity in children and thyroid disorders. This study discusses a potential association between obesity and thyroid damage in children, and the subsequent weight gain which can occur, which then leads to even more weight gain resulting in a "vicious cycle".
Indeed, overweight children may be damaging their thyroids, creating a vicious routine of lower metabolism and weight gain, according to Italian researchers and a release reported on Wednesday.
Obesity may cause a disorder that actually harms the thyroid, the gland which discharges hormones in order to accommodate metabolism balance and other momentous functions, according to Dr. Giorgio Radetti and colleagues, who are the with the Regional Hospital of Bolzano in Italy.
Their study involved over one hundred and fifty severely overweight children covering a period of three years, during which their thyroid hormone levels and thyroid antibodies were documented using thyroid gland ultrasound, among other testing. Dr. Radetti stated that that the study shows alterations in thyroid function frequent in children who are obese or severely overweight. Dr. Radetti continued by stating that he and his colleagues found a coalition between body mass and thyroid hormone levels, which demonstrate a link between fat surplus and thyroid production.
The researchers wrote in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism that seventy-three of the children who participated in the study had aggravated-looking thyroids, but not to the point of being diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disorder in which T-cells mistakenly attack the thyroid. However, these children did indeed lack the antibodies that are linked to the disease. Dr. Radetti suggested that inflammation could have caused the antibody insufficiency in these children, rather than Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Studies of Thyroid Hormones and Obesity in Children
Researchers have concentrated on the link between thyroid hormones in childhood obesity, even to the point of some scientists suggesting that an issue with the thyroid may be accountable for some statistical cases of overweight children. This link does, however, still remain contentious and further research released from the Hospital in Bolzano, Italy may only add to the debate.
Further Evidence Released from the Study Suggests a Link Between Obesity and Thyroid Disease.
Dr. Radetti specified that the thyroid ultrasound results are unexpected, however, they do demonstrate that there is a parallel between low-grade inflammation of the thyroid and childhood obesity. The study shows that thyroid function in severely overweight children may be the unearthed link. Dr. Radetti said "We found an association between body mass index and thyroid hormone levels which suggests that fat excess may have a role in thyroid tissue modification."
Can Weight Loss Fix the Damage Caused to the Thyroid?
Even though weight loss can accompany effective thyroid hormone production in tests, Dr. Radetti stated that he was positive that the pattern of changes found by ultrasound could possibly be reversed through weight loss. However, it would require more testing and studies in order for this association to be confirmed.
What Categorizes a Child as Obese?
Obesity is defined as an excess amount of body fat. At this time, there is no specific general agreement that exists among scientists on the definition of obesity in children as in adults. The majority of professional researchers use published guidelines, which state the body mass index (BMI) for age in order to calculate obesity in children. Some scientists define obesity in children as the body weight at least 20% higher than an otherwise normal child with healthy weight for that height. In other words, obesity in children is calculated as body fat percentage above 25% in boys or above 32% in girls.
Does Excessive Weight in Children Lead to a Vicious Cycle and Low Thyroid?
Abnormally low thyroid function can be associated to weight gain, however, it is known by scientists that stimulating the thyroid does not lead to weight loss. However, weight loss has been shown to restore normal and efficient thyroid function in some people.
And because some people with low thyroid have the tendencies to have a low basal metabolic rate, an obvious result of hypothyroidism is weight gain and even the perpetuated cause of excess weight due to the difficulty to lose extra weight.
Sometimes a metabolic burn may continue to drop as calories are reduced when dieting. This is why some women with hypothyroidism or low thyroid can have weight gain even when they are maintaining a very strict calorie intake diet.
Consult a Professional
If you or loved one suspects that their child may suffer from obesity due to a thyroid disease, or suspect that their thyroid disease may be caused by obesity, it is highly recommended that they consult with a Pediatrician as soon as possible.
Hypothyroidism and Weight Gain in Children Linked?
Thyroid Conditions and Children
The most common thyroid disorder is called hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid under produces the thyroid hormone. Because many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are indistinct, at times a correct diagnosis can be difficult. And some physicians can overlook the symptoms, such as fatigue and depression, and attribute them to a different cause altogether.
In an earlier blog entry, we listed the symptoms of thyroid disorders. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is thyroiditis, also called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune thyroid disorder. A very common cause of thyroiditis is aging. As people age, the thyroid produces less hormone causing the condition. But many times, a young person might develop thyroiditis and as a result could, in some cases, become sluggish which in-turn could lead to weight gain. Today we are going to discuss a common belief that hypothyroidism can directly lead to weight gain, even in children.
Hypothyroidism and Weight Gain in Children
Often times, a parent will investigate hypothyroidism after their child has suffered from fatigue, depression, and even weight gain. The parent will take the child to a physician who will conduct a simple blood test and, in some cases, determine that the child has an under active thyroid called hypothyroidism. The parent often requests the child be treated for their disease in hopes that while regulating the deficient hormone level in their child with the once-a-day thyroid hormone pill, an added benefit of the treatment will lead to the child magically losing the excess weight and achieving improved overall health. However, a child who is treated for hypothyroidism is not likely to lose weight with treatment for their condition alone, according to a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The study is groundbreaking because it is the first study of its kind in which the link between hypothyroidism in children and weight loss is examined.
The Journal's study documented sixty-eight children with acquired hypothyroidism that were seen in the Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Endocrinology Department from 1995 to 2006. Most of the children had extreme cases of hypothyroidism. The researchers who conducted the study discovered that with levo-thyroxine, which was used to stabilize the children's thyroid hormone levels, did not result in lower weight, either within the short-term or long-term.
But hypothyroidism alone is not responsible for weight gain, according to the study's lead author, Dr. Jefferson P. Lomenick of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Department of Pediatric Endocrinology. In fact, Lomenick contends that hypothyroidism leads to a collection of fluids within the subcutaneous tissues called myxedema. And while regulating and correcting the level of thyroid hormone does indeed cause fluid to dissipate, it only relates to a weight loss of a few pounds. Lomenick states that most incidences of hypothyroidism are diagnosed well before myxedema becomes established and this is why few people enjoy weight loss after treatment. Hypothyroidism's effect on weight loss has been far over characterized.
Emotional Effects of Hypothyroidism
The side effects of hypothyroidism are vast. They include a feeling of nervousness, irritability, and these patients can also feel fatigue or depression. However, these emotional side effects will most likely subside with treatment for the thyroid disorder. Because these types of disorders develop gradually, some symptoms are not recognized at the onset.
Helping Hypothyroid Children with Weight Issues
A camp was launched this year at Christ Lutheran School and will continue through the summer to August 1st. The goal of the camp is to provide young people with education and exercise in an effort to help them not only lose weight, but gain the knowledge in order to make a lifestyle change so that they can maintain a healthy weight. The camp is called "The Biggest Teen Loser" and serving as the camp's medical directors are Drs. Walter Flesner and Mark Smith of Island Coast Pain and Rehabilitation Center in Cape Coral.
A young participant at the camp, Nicole, has the most common thyroid disorder - an autoimmune condition in which her body repudiates her thyroid. This condition is called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. And because of Nicole's condition, her body does not burn calories as efficiently as other teens. Her under active thyroid does not utilize energy as quickly as is necessary. Nicole is participating in the camp in hopes that she can learn how to eat so that her body will utilize the calories more efficiently.
Although Nicole is only one patient at the camp of seventeen youths who attended, it is promising to see this example of public involvement with goals of helping teens that suffer from weight issues.
Excellent Review of Thyroid Disease
This video was found to have an excellent visual reference for thyroid disorders and their effect on the metabolism. If you or a loved one is concerned about hypothyroidism and weight gain in children, call a pediatric endocrinologist to request a consultation so you can discuss your questions and possible treatment options. And be sure to check back here each week for more news on thyroid health.
Researchers Seek Clear Answers about Thyroid Cancer in Young People
Bucking the overarching trend of declining cancer rates, thyroid cancer has seen a sharp and mysterious resurgence over the last decade. Particularly troubling has been the disproportionately high rates of thyroid cancer seen among young adults, adolescents, and even children.
The scientific community is deeply divided over the origins of this disturbing trend. Although some researchers have connected it to the larger spike in overall thyroid cancer rates, others contend that there may unique strains of thyroid cancer to which younger people, for a variety of reasons, may be especially vulnerable.
One groundbreaking study conducted by Italian researchers seems to support this argument. The study found that younger people with thyroid cancer seem more prone to metastasis of the disease, meaning that the cancer often spreads throughout the body before a definitive diagnosis is made, making the possibility of recovery and survival less likely.
While the origins of highly aggressive thyroid cancer among young people remain controversial, research into this problem has been a major focus of worldwide thyroid cancer study in recent years. This week, we’ll survey some of the most significant recent findings that have emerged as scientists struggle to solve the thyroid cancer mystery.
Genetic Mutations Not Likely Cause of Aggressive Thyroid Cancer in Young
As scientists around the world have focused their efforts on investigating the factors that cause aggressive, fast-spreading, and difficult-to-diagnose cases of thyroid cancer among young adults and adolescents, some progress has been made by eliminating a number of possibilities.
A research team at the Department of Pediatrics of the University of the Health Sciences, in Bethesda, Maryland considered the possibility that certain genetic mutations may play a role in aggravating thyroid cancers in young patients. Specifically, the team focused on isolating and identifying specific mutations, such as a genetic quirk that has been linked to other types of aggressive, early-developing cancers, including breast cancer.
However, according to the team’s findings, the BRAF mutation does not appear to play a central role in papillary thyroid cancers among younger patients. Although the researchers suggest that other genetic factors may indeed play a role in the origin and progression of thyroid cancers in young people, this type of problem appears to have been statistically eliminated as a possible cause.
New Inroads in Early Detection of Thyroid Cancer Crucial to Positive Prognoses for Young Patients
Because papillary thyroid cancer tends to spread quickly without many clear symptoms in young people, researchers have exerted a great deal of effort trying to develop more effective methods of detecting the disease in its earliest stages.
In general, cases of papillary thyroid cancer progress at a different rate in younger patients than they do in their older counterparts. As such, researchers have focused on developing early detection strategies that could help yield a positive diagnosis as early as possible.
The study, published in a recent volume of the journal Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, classified the growth rates of several types of thyroid cancer among younger patients. The authors also found that the patient’s age at the time of diagnosis, rather than the size of the tumor, correlated most strongly with positive treatment outcome.
Surgical Procedure Can Prevent Thyroid Cancer in At-Risk Children and Adolescents
Medullary thyroid cancer can be deadly when undiagnosed in children and adolescents. Although this type of cancer is rare in the general population, individuals with one of several genetic mutations are at very high risk of developing the disease.
In a study conducted by researchers at Duke University, it was found that a preemptive surgical procedure may be the best way to prevent medullary thyroid cancer in children who possess this rare genetic mutation. Of the children who submitted to the surgery, virtually all remained cancer-free for a period of five years after the removal of their thyroid glands.
Although this option may appear severe, the researchers reiterated their opinion that preemptive surgical removal of the thyroid gland remains the best option for children who possess the genetic mutation.
If you’re concerned about the risk of thyroid cancer and treatment options for younger patients, talk to a pediatric cancer specialist for a comprehensive discussion of the alternatives. Be sure to check back here each week for more of the thyroid health news you need.
Note: The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for professional care. This site should not be used in place of professional medical advice. The author is not a physician. For medical emergencies, call 911!
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