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Eur J Clin Invest. 2015 May;45(5):494-503. doi: 10.1111/eci.12423. Epub 2015 Mar 9.

Low-normal thyroid function and the pathogenesis of common cardio-metabolic disorders.

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Department of Endocrinology, University of Groningen and University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.



Subclinical hypothyroidism may adversely affect the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Less is known about the role of low-normal thyroid function, that is higher thyroid-stimulating hormone and/or lower free thyroxine levels within the euthyroid reference range, in the development of cardio-metabolic disorders. This review is focused on the relationship of low-normal thyroid function with CVD, plasma lipids and lipoprotein function, as well as with metabolic syndrome (MetS), chronic kidney disease (CKD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).


This narrative review, which includes results from previously published systematic reviews and meta-analyses, is based on clinical and basic research papers, obtained via MEDLINE and PubMed up to November 2014.


Low-normal thyroid function could adversely affect the development of (subclinical) atherosclerotic manifestations. It is likely that low-normal thyroid function relates to modest increases in plasma total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and may convey pro-atherogenic changes in lipoprotein metabolism and in HDL function. Most available data support the concept that low-normal thyroid function is associated with MetS, insulin resistance and CKD, but not with high blood pressure. Inconsistent effects of low-normal thyroid function on NAFLD have been reported so far.


Observational studies suggest that low-normal thyroid function may be implicated in the pathogenesis of CVD. Low-normal thyroid function could also play a role in the development of MetS, insulin resistance and CKD, but the relationship with NAFLD is uncertain. The extent to which low-normal thyroid function prospectively predicts cardio-metabolic disorders has been insufficiently established so far.


Cardiovascular disease; chronic kidney disease; lipids; low-normal thyroid function; metabolic syndrome; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; obesity; thyroid hormones; thyroid-stimulating hormone

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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