Levothyroxine Replacement in Obese Adults: The Role of Metabolic Variables and Aging on Thyroid Testing Abnormalities

Chiara Mele, Maria Antonella Tagliaferri, Loredana Pagano, Davide Soranna, Massimo Scacchi, Gianluca Aimaretti, Bernadette Biondi, Paolo Marzullo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


CONTEXT: General rates of over- and underreplacement in levothyroxine (LT4) users with primary hypothyroidism are variably high. No information on LT4 adequacy exists in obesity. OBJECTIVE: We explored rates and factors relating to LT4 adequacy in obese patients with primary hypothyroidism. SETTING: Tertiary care center. DESIGN: Among 4954 consecutive obese patients admitted between 2011 and 2014, 691 hypothyroid patients receiving LT4 therapy and 691 body mass index (BMI)-, age-, and sex-matched euthyroid controls underwent analysis of thyroid function, glucolipid profile, body composition, and indirect calorimetry. LT4 users were classified into low TSH (<0.27 mU/L), euthyroid (0.27 to 4.2 mU/L), and high TSH (>4.2 mU/L). RESULTS: LT4 users constituted 13.9% of the incident population. TSH was low in 7.5%, high in 17.2%, and normal in 75.2% of LT4 users. Overtreatment decreased with aging and more LT4 users ≥65 years of age had normal TSH than those <65 years of age (P < 0.05). Compared with the euthyroid obese group, LT4 users showed higher adiposity, similar insulin resistance, but a healthier lipid profile. In multivariable analyses, LT4 dose was predicted by fat-free mass, hypothyroidism cause, and sex (P < 0.0001 to < 0.05). Risk of LT4 overreplacement increased with younger age (OR 0.96; 95% CI 0.94 to 0.99), higher LT4 dose (OR 2.98; 95% CI 1.44 to 6.14), and lower BMI (OR 0.93; 95% CI 0.88 to 0.99). Male sex increased the likelihood of LT4 underreplacement (OR 2.37; 95% CI 1.10 to 5.11). CONCLUSIONS: Obesity is associated with milder rates of inadequate LT4 treatment compared with nonobese populations. LT4 adequacy increases with aging. Age, body composition, and sex are main determinants of LT4 requirements in obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6265-6274
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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