A recent study at the University of Kentucky has revealed that children with hypothyroidism aren't likely to loose weight while being treated for the condition.
Hypothyroidism is commonly believed to be a cause of weight gain, however, the treatment for the same may not drop pounds, the researchers say.
"Parents of overweight children often desire a 'quick fix' for the problem and request thyroid tests, but, unfortunately, screening for hypothyroidism is not the answer," said the study's lead author, Dr. Jefferson P. Lomenick, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics' Division of Pediatric Endocrinology.
Researchers examined 68 children, most of them having severe cases of hypothyroidism acquiring hypothyroidism treatment in the pediatric endocrinology clinic at Kentucky Children's Hospital from 1995 to 2006.
They discovered that the treatment with levothyroxine drug that controlled the children's thyroid levels did not lower weight or BMI from baseline to any time point measured, either short-term or long-term.
"Most experts agree thyroid function tests are generally unnecessary in an overweight child if he/she has normal linear growth and no other symptoms of hypothyroidism. The results of our study support this," said Lomenick.
The findings revealed that the whole group of 68 children gained 2.4 pounds by the first follow up visit despite their treatment.
However, about a third of the children with extremely severe cases of hypothyroidism, far worse than the children who did not lose weight, lost weight by the second visit, which was only about five pounds.
"Although this is the first study in children to address this issue, there have been a few reports in adults which show similar results," he said.
Lomenick said that long-standing hypothyroidism causes accumulation of a proteinaceous fluid in the subcutaneous tissues called myxedema and the amount of adipose, or fatty tissue, is not actually altered with hypothyroidism.
"Replacement of thyroid hormone causes this fluid, which only amounts to a few pounds, to dissipate over a few weeks. Most cases of hypothyroidism are actually discovered long before myxedema even develops, which is why the majority of people experience little, if any, weight loss after treatment," he added.
Lomenick believes that the effect of hypothyroidism on weight has been vastly blown out of proportion to reality.
The study has been published in the Journal of Pediatrics.