Quercetin: Natural Support for Hypothyroidism, Stress, and Weight Loss

January 21, 2018 | Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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Quercetin: Natural Support for Hypothyroidism, Stress, and Weight Loss
Stressors of many types affect the thyroid and metabolism. Borderline hypothyroidism and hypothyroidism are heavily intertwined with metabolic syndrome, obesity and inflammation and vice versa. It is seen as weight gain and elevated cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. Indeed, thyroid hormone affects everything in the body. Some of the underlying causes of hypothyroidism are linked with stress, inflammation, gene signals, and mitochondria. Intervention and support requires a number of different tools. One of those tools is the natural bioflavonoid quercetin. Quercetin is well-known for its anti-histamine, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory activity, but its effects reach even farther. This antioxidant brings a positive influence on metabolism and thyroid stress.

Stress Inflammation Induces Change to Brain-Thyroid Communication System

Acute and chronic stress impacts the brain-thyroid communication loop, i.e. the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid-adrenal axis (HPT) and the sympathetic autonomic nervous system. Thyroid hormones are affected by this process as they are part of the HPT axis. When stress overwhelms the HPT axis, it affects T3 production and usage. T3 is the active form of thyroid. If the stress is too much, it leads to compromised T3 function and leads to weight gain around the belly and internal organs, i.e. visceral fat. It also leads to atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Stressors can be related with anything – work, life, diet, emotional, etc.

Stress that overwhelms or exhausts the HPT axis and impairs T3 also stresses mitochondria with free radicals and oxidative stress, i.e. inflammation. Think of it as a type of sprain-strain to healthy metabolism. Not only is T3 hormone function impaired, but so are mitochondria and even genes. This progressive wear and tear sprain-strain response leads to impaired cellular energy production and contributes over time to metabolic syndrome, abdominal obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. It becomes biologically self-perpetuating unless the sprain/strain is managed. Quercetin is one resource that supports many different aspects of this complicated issue.

Stress Provoked Borderline Hypothyroidism/Metabolic Syndrome, Buffered by Antioxidants

In effort to help circumvent the thyroid-metabolic syndrome-heart disease-stress challenge, several studies evaluated this concern from various viewpoints as we will see below. In a recent study, Chinese researchers evaluated quercetin’s impact amongst 2,273 Chinese university workers ages 22-60. They combined quercetin with the antioxidants resveratrol and lipoic acid. Numerous factors were evaluated including thyroid, markers of oxidative inflammation, antioxidant levels, stress levels, sedentary effects of sitting, and chronic long work hours. Stress levels were especially scrutinized and analyzed.

Results showed high stress levels and subclinical hypothyroidism was linked with metabolic syndrome, high body mass index/obesity, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, elevated leptin levels, and low HDL cholesterol. When the antioxidant supplements quercetin, resveratrol, and lipoic acid were used, oxidative stress levels declined. Weight gain was blocked and cardiovascular markers associated with endothelial function, blood pressure, heart rate, heart size and stiffness improved. T3 thyroid hormone levels improved as did the critical antioxidant glutathione. Results showed that the antioxidants were heart protective and helped restore thyroid hormone averting problems with stress-induced metabolic syndrome and obesity.

High-Fat Diet, AMPK, and Quercetin

Other recent studies highlight the benefit of quercetin against the stress of diet-induced obesity. When researchers study obesity, they use the dietary model of high fat and high cholesterol diet, or a high fructose, high sucrose diet, which unfortunately reflects the Standard American Diet.

In a December 2017 animal study, researchers evaluated the effect of quercetin and resveratrol on a high-fat diet and obesity which causes high levels of inflammation in the body. This is a fundamental concern as inflammation impairs AMPK and SIRT1 function which are master metabolic enzyme switches. When AMPK and SIRT1 fail to work, obesity, fatigue, blood sugar problems, and weight gain occur and worsen. In this study, quercetin and resveratrol provided anti-inflammatory support while the nutrients helped reduce insulin resistance and supported AMPK and SIRT1 function for weight loss.

High Fructose Diets, Obesity, and Quercetin

High fructose corn syrup and sucrose which contains fructose is linked with increased risk for obesity. Fructose interferes with feeling satisfied from food. It also interferes with leptin and insulin secretion which also leads to the lack of satiety and leptin resistance. The consequences of high fructose intake are obesity and metabolic syndrome.

In an effort to find solutions from the stress of diet-induced obesity and its health damaging effects, researchers again turned to quercetin. Quercetin was found to protect against fructose-induced metabolic syndrome. Dosage used in this study was equivalent to 3000-4000 mg/day in an adult. High fructose foods include foods with high fructose corn-syrup (soda pop, processed foods), honey, and agave. Some fruits like apples, cherries, mangoes, watermelon, and pears and some vegetables like asparagus, artichoke, and sugar snap peas have higher fructose content than other produce. Consumption of these fruits and vegetables in moderation is not usually a concern when combined within a healthy diet.

High Fat Diet, Obesity, Quercetin, and Gut Flora

High fat diets have been found to create another metabolic stress by adversely affecting gut flora. A study published December 2017 found that quercetin and resveratrol reduced obesity caused by a high-fat diet in part by helping gut flora. The combination of the two antioxidants produced remarkable results overall. At the end of 10 weeks of supplementation, body weight and visceral fat were reduced. Cholesterol levels and inflammatory markers ( IL-6, TNF-a and MCP-1) were reduced. Insulin, leptin, and adiponectin levels improved.

Perhaps most surprising was that quercetin and resveratrol modulated the gut flora to a more preferable composition despite the high fat diet. Rather than having a propensity of Firmicutes, a type of bacteria associated with obesity, gut flora shifted to the Bacteroidetes and other metabolically friendly gut flora. This information can be added into other information about how digestive problems prevent weight loss.

High Fat Diet, Obesity, Mitochondrial Gene Expression and Quercetin

A recent study on obese mice fed a Western diet high in fat, cholesterol, and sucrose demonstrated quercetin’s benefit. Quercetin intake supported a healthier metabolism by supporting healthy gene expression associated with mitochondria function and immune system metabolism. Quercetin suppressed oxidative stress and prevented NF kappa B induced inflammation that would normally accumulate with a high fat, high sugar diet. This means that the metabolic factories were able to burn more fat for fuel rather than shut down from inflammation and accumulate fat stores.

Other research shows that quercetin shows great promise in counteracting obesity-associated complications. In addition to its benefits as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic effects, quercetin changed the expression of several adipokine genes, like leptin.

Most recently, quercetin was evaluated in context of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) metabolic syndrome, obesity, and AMPK and adiponectin receptors. PCOS and thyroid disorders often coexist and are a metabolic puzzle for girls, women and future generations. In this randomized, placebo controlled double-blind clinical trial, it was found that oral supplementation of 1,000 mg of quercetin per day for 12 weeks significantly improved the metabolic features of PCOS. Quercetin helped a number of metabolic genes, adiponectic receptors, and AMPK.

PCOS treatment and metabolic syndrome often includes a combination of very powerful, common nutrient-depleting medications like birth control pills, metformin, a diabetes mediation, statin drugs to lower cholesterol, hormone treatments, electrolysis to remove facial hair and even gastric bypass surgery for weight loss. Could it be that either quercetin as a nutritional supplement or as naturally found in apples, onions, peppers, red wine, berries, cherries, leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, provide a healthy solution for PCOS, metabolic syndrome, compromised T3 and thyroid related distress. The fact that quercetin and other powerful antioxidants can help support AMPK function, adipokines, gene expression, and even keep our gut flora healthy is quite remarkable. It looks to me, that an “apple a day, keeps the doctor away” may in part be related to the benefit of quercetin.

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