Continued research all over the world is bringing us closer every day to the causes of Type 2 diabetes. Thyroid hormones are generally normal in the majority of diabetic patients, but a group of researchers in Athens, Greece wondered if sight variations in normal levels of thyroid hormones could have something to do with insulin sensitivity.
Insulin resistance is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, so anything that might be associated with decreased insulin sensitivity is of interest. Most people with Type 2 diabetes still produce insulin; the problem is their cells resist it.
In an article published in the journal Endocrine, November 2010, researchers in the Department of Internal Medicine, Research Institute and Diabetes Center, Athens University Medical School, reported the results of their study of thyroid hormones and insulin sensitivity in seventy-eight volunteers made up of:
- seventeen healthy participants served as controls
- twenty-two first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) of Type 2 diabetics
- fifteen volunteers with impaired ability to handle sugar, and
- twenty-four people with full-blown Type 2 diabetes.
Thyroid hormones were measured via blood samples and their insulin sensitivity was also tested. The hormones were found to be lower in the control group than in the other three groups. Insulin resistance was found to be highest in those with the highest thyroid hormonal levels. The researchers concluded, therefore, that increases of thyroid hormones, although still normal, were associated with insulin resistance and suggested such increases could be at least be partly responsible for causing Type 2 diabetes.
The thyroid is a small gland is located in the front of the windpipe that plays a part in metabolism... the hormones the thyroid makes regulate how the body uses energy. When thyroid hormones are abnormally low, people can:
- gain weight
- feel fatigued
- feel cold at room temperature, and
- have coarse, dry hair
When thyroid hormones are abnormally high, people can
- feel excessive nervousness
- lose weight
- sweat abnormally
- have really fine hair
- suffer fast heartbeats and
- bulging eyes
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, in which an under-active gland causes weight gain, develop over time and disturb efforts to control blood sugar. Thyroid problems should be treated by an endocrinologist doctor who specializes in the endocrine system, which includes the pancreas and the thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism, or having too little thyroid hormone, is treated with a thyroid pill taken once a day. Hyperthyroidism is treated with medications such as beta blockers or radioactive iodine. The thyroid hormone levels measured in the study above were not considered abnormally high, but, with more study, what is considered a normal level might someday be reclassified as slightly too high for good health. A blood test called a thyroid panel is given when diabetes is diagnosed or when thyroid problems are suspected.
For the time being, we will have to await further developments as more and more parts of the puzzle of what causes Type 2 diabetes are put into place.