Effects of levothyroxine substitution therapy on hunger and food intake in individuals with hypothyroidism

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Context: In individuals with hypothyroidism and overweight, levothyroxine substitution therapy is often expected to cause weight loss due to its effect on resting energy expenditure. However, despite levothyroxine-induced enhancement of resting energy expenditure, fat mass loss is rarely seen after levothyroxine substitution therapy. The mechanism behind this conundrum is unknown. Aim: The aim of the study was to assess the effect of levothyroxine therapy on hunger sensations and ad libitum food intake in individuals with hypothyroidism. Design and setting: Prospective cohort study of 18 newly diagnosed hypothyroid women (thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) >10 mU/L). Participants were investigated at diagnosis, after normalization of TSH (<4.0 mU/L), and after 6 months of successful treatment. Eighteen age and body mass index-matched healthy controls were also included. Intervention: Hypothyroid individuals were treated with levothyroxine according to European Thyroid Association guidelines. Main outcomes: Changes in hunger sensation were assessed using visual analog scales (cm) before and during a standardized mixed meal test, and food intake was measured during a subsequent ad libitum meal (g). Results: After 6 months of levothyroxine therapy, mean resting energy expenditure was increased by 144 kcal/day (10%) (P < 0.001). Weight loss was comprised of 0.8 kg fat-free mass while fat mass remained unchanged. Fasting hunger sensation increased from a mean of 4.5 (s.d. 2.2) cm to 5.5 (s.d. 2.2) cm (P = 0.047). The numerical increase in ad libitum meal intake did not reach statistical significance. Conclusion: Our data suggest that levothyroxine-induced hunger may be a culprit in the lack of fat mass loss from levothyroxine therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere230314
JournalEndocrine Connections
Issue number10
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 the author(s). Published by Bioscientifica Ltd.

    Research areas

  • body composition, food intake, hunger, hypothyroidism, levothyroxine

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