Subjects with both subclinical hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis are frequently diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. The purpose of the current study was to investigate whether insulin sensitivity determines levothyroxine action on thyroid antibody titers and hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis activity in young women with autoimmune subclinical hypothyroidism. The study population consisted of three age-, thyroid antibody- and thyrotropin-matched groups of women with autoimmune subclinical hypothyroidism: metformin-naïve women with insulin resistance (group A; n=31), women receiving metformin-treatment because of insulin resistance (group B; n=32), as well as metformin-naive women with normal insulin sensitivity (group C n=35). Throughout the study, all subjects were treated with levothyroxine. Titers of thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin antibodies, as well as circulating levels of glucose, insulin, lipids, thyrotropin, free thyroid hormones, prolactin, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and 25-hydroxyvitamin D were determined at the beginning of the study and 6 months later. Except for two individuals, all patients completed the study. At baseline, group A differed from groups B and C in circulating levels of glucose, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, hsCRP, 25-hydroxyvitamin D and the homeostatic model assessment 1 of insulin resistance (HOMA1-IR). Although levothyroxine reduced thyroid antibody titers, decreased thyrotropin levels and increased free thyroid hormone levels in all studied groups, the effect on antibody titers and thyrotropin levels was more-pronounced in groups B and C than in group A. The impact of levothyroxine on thyroid antibody titers correlated with baseline and treatment-induced changes in HOMA1-IR, thyrotropin, hsCRP and 25-hydroxyvitamin D. The results of the current study suggest that the impact of exogenous levothyroxine on thyroid autoimmunity and hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis activity is determined by insulin sensitivity.
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