Age and gender substantially influence the relationship between thyroid status and the lipoprotein profile: results from a large cross-sectional study

Sara Tognini, Antonio Polini, Giuseppe Pasqualetti, Silvia Ursino, Nadia Caraccio, Marco Ferdeghini, Fabio Monzani
Thyroid: Official Journal of the American Thyroid Association 2012, 22 (11): 1096-103

BACKGROUND: Conflicting data are reported on the association between mild thyroid failure and lipid profile, primarily regarding serum triglyceride values and patients with slightly elevated thyrotropin (TSH, <10 mIU/L). In this study, we assessed the possible influence of gender and age on this relationship.

METHODS: The study included 2308 consecutive patients who were seen for suspected or diagnosed thyroid disease (1874 women, 434 men, mean age 47.5±14.1 and 46.9±14.0 years, respectively) and on whom studies of thyroid status and lipoprotein profile were conducted after an overnight fast. Patients with uncontrolled diabetes mellitus and those taking lipid-lowering drugs were excluded.

RESULTS: There were 628 patients receiving L-thyroxine who had a diagnosis of hypothyroidism: 200 were hyperthyroid, and 120 were still hypothyroid. Overall, 648 patients were hypothyroid, and 290 were hyperthyroid. No gender difference in the frequency of TSH values in the ranges studied (i.e., TSH frequency distribution) was observed. Total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLc) values (p<0.0003 and p<0.003, respectively) as well as the LDL/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLc) ratio (p<0.03) were elevated not only in unselected women with TSH values in the 4th TSH group (>10 mIU/L) but also in those of the 3rd group (3.6-10.0 mIU/L) who were older than 50 years (TC and LDLc p=0.01, LDL/HDLc ratio p=0.02 vs. euthyroid women). Among unselected men, only those of the 4th TSH group had elevated triglyceride (p<0.0001) but not cholesterol values. However, men of the 3rd and 4th TSH group who were older than 65 years had significantly higher TC, LDLc, and LDL/HDLc values as well (p=0.03, p=0.02 and p=0.01, respectively vs. euthyroid men). In the final model of stepwise regression for predicting each lipid parameter variation on the basis of age, TSH, free thyroxine (FT4), and body mass index (BMI) analysis, age had the highest standardized coefficient (0.36 and 0.37, respectively), followed by TSH (0.20 and 0.11, respectively) and FT4 (-0.11 and -0.09, respectively) when looking at TC and LDLc; whereas BMI had the highest standardized coefficient (0.28), followed by age (0.15) and TSH (0.11) when looking at triglyceride variation.

CONCLUSIONS: This study confirms a gender differentiation in the relationship between hypothyroidism and the lipid profile, which is substantially influenced by age, especially in patients with mild thyroid impairment (TSH<10 mIU/L).

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