A new study by Dutch researchers appears to show that an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, could put you at a greater risk of type 2 diabetes even for those who take medication in order to keep hormone levels withing normal ranges.

diabetes Hypothyroidism

Long-term study on hypothyroidism

The study, which has not been published in a peer-review journal but presented at a medical conference, was undertaken over eight years and led by Dr. Layal Chaker of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. The study involved over 8,000 people and the results seems to show a fairly convincing link between hypothyroidism and type 2 diabetes.

The hormones produced by the thyroid are responsible for metabolism. And overactive thyroid will speed up your metabolism but is not necessarily a good thing while a thyroid that is underactive will not produce enough hormones and will slow down metabolism which often leads to weight gain. Weight gain and type 2 diabetes are closely related.

Diabetes is a massive health problem that causes blood glucose levels to rise to an unhealthy level which is defined as hyperglycemia. Those who suffer from type 2 diabetes don’t use insulin properly. This insulin resistance will generally make your pancreas increase production of insulin but over time it just can’t keep up and those with type 2 diabetes are often forced to add additional insulin either orally or through injections.

The average age of the participants in the 8-year-old study was 65 and each was given a blood test to measure blood sugar levels and thyroid function. There medical records were also studied and new blood work was done every couple of years as the researchers looked for the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Over the course of the study, about 1,100 of those studied had developed “prediabetes” with nearly 800 showing full-blown type 2 diabetes.

Clearly an association

The researchers found that those who suffered from hypothyroidism risked getting type 2 diabetes 13% more often than those with thyroids that weren’t underperfoming. Those with prediabetes and were showing hypothyroidism faced a 40% greater risk of full-blown type 2 diabetes.

While the researchers admit that they didn’t find a direct link between hypothyroidism and type 2 diabetes, they certainly have found an association. “These findings suggest we should consider screening people with prediabetes for low thyroid function,” Chaker said in a news release from the Endocrine Society.

The study was presented yesterday at the Endocrine Society’s annual conference in Boston.

“We found it surprising that even people whose thyroid function was in the low-normal range had an increased risk of diabetes,” Chaker said. “Future studies should investigate whether screening for and treatment of subclinical hypothyroidism [mildly low thyroid function] is beneficial in subjects at risk of developing diabetes.”

While it’s gotten better in recent years, type 2 diabetes early in the 21st century was beginning to look like a new epidemic especially in the United States.

“Type 2 diabetes has changed from a disease of our grandparents and parents to a disease of our children. As more and more children and young adults develop this devastating disease, it has become apparent that we have much to learn about who in the pediatric population is at risk to develop type 2 diabetes, why they develop this disease, how to treat it, and, most importantly, how to prevent this “new epidemic” from destroying future generations of Americans,” wrote Dr.  Francine Ratner Kaufman when she took over as president of the American Diabetes Association in 2002.

The Dutch teams findings didn’t surprise Dr. Minisha Sood, director of inpatient diabetes at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City who said, “There is some evidence to show that low thyroid function can increase insulin resistance.”

“Most endocrinologists screen for thyroid disease in patients with prediabetes and diabetes, because it is known that thyroid disease is more prevalent in these populations,” she added.