Background/objectives: Thyroid hormone receptors are present on brown adipose tissue (BAT), indicating a role for thyroid hormone in the regulation of BAT activation. The objective of this study was to examine the effect of thyroid hormone withdrawal followed by thyroid hormone in TSH-suppressive dosages, on energy expenditure and brown adipose tissue activity.
Subjects/methods: This study was a longitudinal study in an academic center, with a follow-up period of 6 months. Ten patients with well-differentiated thyroid carcinoma eligible for surgical treatment and subsequent radioactive iodine ablation therapy were studied in a hypothyroid state after thyroidectomy and in a subclinical hyperthyroid state (TSH-suppression according to treatment protocol). Paired two-tailed t-tests and linear regression analyses were used.
Results: Basal metabolic rate (BMR) was significantly higher after treatment with synthetic thyroid hormone (levothyroxine) than in the hypothyroid state (BMR 3.8 ± 0.5 kJ/min versus 4.4 ± 0.6 kJ/min, P = 0.012), and non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) significantly increased from 15 ± 10% to 25 ± 6% (P = 0.009). Mean BAT activity was significantly higher in the subclinical hyperthyroid state than in the hypothyroid state (BAT standard uptake value (SUVMean) 4.0 ± 2.9 versus 2.4 ± 1.8, P = 0.039).
Conclusions: Our study shows that higher levels of thyroid hormone are associated with a higher level of cold-activated BAT.