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Vol. 57, No. 3-4, 2002
Issue release date: 2002
Horm Res 2002;57:79–84

Effect of Subclinical Hypothyroidism and Obesity on Whole-Body and Regional Bone Mineral Content

Bertoli A. · Fusco A. · Andreoli A. · Magnani A. · Tulli A. · Lauro D. · de Lorenzo A.
aDivision of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine, and bHuman Nutrition Unit, University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’, Rome, Italy

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Objective: The present investigation was aimed to evaluate the effect of subclinical hypothyroidism and obesity on bone mineral content (BMC) in different body segments. Methods: Thirty-two premenopausal women (age: 37 ± 9.9 years), with a wide range in body mass index (BMI), were studied. Subclinical hypothyroidism was defined by a basal TSH ≧4 µU/l and/or a TRH-stimulated peak ≧30 µU/l. For each subject, weight, height, BMI (weight/height2) and the waist/hip ratio were measured. Total BMC, total bone mineral density (BMD), leg BMC, leg BMD, trunk BMC, trunk BMD, arm BMC and arm BMD were determined using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Thyroid function (basal and TRH-stimulated TSH, free T3 and free T4) were determined from fasting blood samples for all subjects. Results: Anova was conducted within all the groups to observe the effect of thyroid status and/or obesity on BMC and BMD. There was no statistical difference for age. Total BMC was affected by obesity (p < 0.05) but not by thyroid status, BMD of the legs was significantly influenced both by thyroid function and obesity (p < 0.01); total BMD was affected by hypothyroid status (p < 0.05). A direct relationship between leg BMD and TSH was demonstrated. Conclusion: Subclinical thyroid hypofunction and obesity seem to affect BMD differently in the body segments. An influence of gravitational force seems necessary in order to make evident the effect of subclinical hypothyroidism on bone. A condition of subclinical hypothyroidism should be considered when evaluating subjects for osteoporosis, since a BMD measured at the femoral neck may induce underestimation of initial osteoporosis.

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