Childhood weight gain and thyroid autoimmunity at age 60-64 years: the 1946 british birth cohort study

Ken K Ong, Diana Kuh, Mary Pierce, Jayne A Franklyn, Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development Scientific and Data Collection Teams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Complex bidirectional relationships have been described between body weight, thyroid function, and risk of thyroid disorders, including thyroid autoimmunity. We used a life-course approach to examine the potential association of childhood or adult body weight with the risk of thyroid autoimmunity and other thyroid disorders at age 60-64 years in a large population-based birth cohort study. Methods: In the UK Medical Research Council 1946 British Birth Cohort study, at age 60-64 years, 1277 women and 1185 men (78% of the target sample) responded to a postal questionnaire, which included questions on thyroid disease and thyroid medication. Circulating antithyroid peroxidase antibodies, free T4, and TSH concentrations were measured in 1057 women and 997 men at a subsequent clinic visit. Birth weight was recorded, and height and weight were measured at ages 2, 4, 6, 7, 11, 15 years and also repeatedly in adulthood. Results: At age 60-64 years, 10.9% of women (139 of 1277) and 2.3% of men (27 of 1185) reported they were taking T4, and 11.5% of women (122 of 1057) and 3.3% of men (33 of 997) had positive anti-TPO antibodies (>100 IU/mL), consistent with thyroid autoimmunity. Among women, both T4 use and positive anti-TPO antibodies at age 60-64 years were positively associated with childhood body weight, childhood overweight, and adult body mass index. Childhood weight gain between 0 and 14 years of age was positively associated with later T4 use (odds ratio 1.21, 95% confidence interval 1.03-1.42) and positive anti-TPO antibodies (1.21, 1.00-1.47). Women who were overweight or obese at age 14 years (127 of 972) had a higher risk of later positive anti-TPO antibodies (2.05, 1.12-3.76). In men and women without any thyroid disorders, serum free T4 concentrations were inversely associated with concurrent body mass index (P = .002). Conclusions: Childhood weight gain and childhood overweight conferred an increased susceptibility to later hypothyroidism and thyroid autoimmunity, particularly in women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1435-42
Number of pages8
JournalThe Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


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