A new study by Italian scientists suggests obesity during childhood may alter the shape of the thyroid gland affecting metabolism and growth.
For the study, researchers evaluated 186 obese and overweight children for three years, monitoring thyroid hormone levels and thyroid antibodies. Ultrasound technology was used to image the thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland produces, stores and releases hormones that control some of the body's functions. The gland is located in the neck, just below the Adam's apple.
“The findings show alterations in thyroid function and structure are common in obese children and we may have found the link,” said Dr. Giorgio Radetti of the Regional Hospital of Bolzano in Italy.
“We have discovered an association between body mass index and thyroid hormone levels suggestive that excess fat may play a role in thyroid tissue modification.”
Scientists have been directing their focus to the role of thyroid hormones in childhood obesity, with some experts suggesting a thyroid problem may be the cause in some overweight children.
The changes detected in thyroid structure are similar to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks your thyroid. However, furthering testing has been inconclusive.
While losing weight can help the thyroid to work properly in tests, researchers are not sure that the structural changes found by ultrasound could be reversed and calls for more studies.
“It’s an interesting observation, but not likely to challenge the accepted view that thyroid problems could contribute to obesity, rather than be caused by it.
The study is published in the December issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM).
A recent study found that children who are obese or have high cholesterol show early warning signs of heart disease.
One in three children in this country is considered overweight. Some are obese. They face a lifetime of battling the bulge, the social stigma and related health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart problems. #