The concept is emerging that low-normal thyroid function, i.e.
, either higher thyroid-stimulating hormone or lower free thyroxine levels within the euthyroid reference range, could contribute to the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. It is possible that adverse effects of low-normal thyroid function on cardiovascular outcome may be particularly relevant for specific populations, such as younger people and subjects with high cardiovascular risk. Low-normal thyroid function probably relates to modest increases in plasma total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance, but effects on high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are inconsistent. Low-normal thyroid function may enhance plasma cholesteryl ester transfer, and contribute to an impaired ability of HDL to inhibit oxidative modification of LDL, reflecting pro-atherogenic alterations in lipoprotein metabolism and HDL function, respectively. Low-normal thyroid function also confers lower levels of bilirubin, a strong natural anti-oxidant. Remarkably, all these effects of low-normal thyroid functional status appear to be more outspoken in the context of chronic hyperglycemia and/or insulin resistance. Collectively, these data support the concept that low-normal thyroid function may adversely affect several processes which conceivably contribute to the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, beyond effects on conventional lipoprotein measures.
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