Lack of Iodine Linked to Poor Thyroid Function and Weight Gain

Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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Lack of Iodine Linked to Poor Thyroid Function and Weight Gain
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Many people suffer from sluggish thyroid performance even though lab tests do not show hypothyroid or subclinical hypothyroid. The failure of doctors to appreciate the importance of optimal thyroid function means that metabolic problems are being ignored even though a constellation of symptoms is obvious. A new study evaluates thyroid hormone levels within the normal range and finds that iodine is lacking when weight is gained. It also finds that weight gain itself may actually be inducing the thyroid problems as a form of stress.

This is very important because once thyroid function becomes stressed it has a domino effect on all other systems in the human body. Researchers measured thyroid levels, iodine, and body mass index in 937 people, and repeated the measurements six years later in 784 of them. They found that the odds of becoming obese during the study were three times higher in people with the lowest ranges of T3 and T4. Leptin resistance predicted functionally low T4. Low levels of adiponectin, which if higher would prevent insulin resistance, predicted low levels of active thyroid hormone,T3.

These later findings indicated that weight gain induced the adverse thyroid hormone changes. We typically think of this issue the other way around, meaning that if people have slow metabolisms then they are more likely to gain weight. This study highlights that weight gain itself is also a form thyroid distress. This is one more issue that contributes to the overall thyroid stress load. This is consistent with a study on children I wrote about three years ago. It also demonstrated that weight gain inflamed their thyroid glands and set the stage for lifelong thyroid problems. While this is a bit of a "chicken and egg" issue, it is yet another reason we should all work diligently to not gain weight.

Also of interest in this study was that the lack of iodine directly correlated to the amount of weight gain. This indicates that weight gain in conjunction with iodine deficiency locks in poor thyroid function and adds to the magnitude of the problem. Ensuring you are adequate in iodine is therefore basic for healthy thyroid function as well as ensures less risk for weight gain.

(Originally published Jan 27, 2012)

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