Oprah: Weight Gain and Hypothyroidism

by Dr Marc on October 18, 2007

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Oprah Winfrey has confirmed speculation that she has gained weight, posting on her website that she has hypothyroidism which caused her to gain 20 lbs.

“My body was turning on me. First hyperthyroidism, which sped up my metabolism and left me unable to sleep for days. (Most people lose weight. I didn’t.) Then hypothyroidism, which slowed down my metabolism and made me want to sleep all the time. (Most people gain weight. I did! Twenty pounds!)

The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of your neck that regulates your metabolism. When your thyroid is overactive it is called hyperthyroidism and it can cause heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, nervousness, light menstrual periods, intolerance to heat, muscle weakness and weight loss. On the other hand, when the thyroid is under-active it is called hypothyroidism and it causes fatigue, weakness, coarse skin, depression, abnormal menstrual periods, decreased sex drive, hair loss, constipation, intolerance to cold and weight gain.

First off, I am not Oprah’s doctor, nor have I ever treated her, however her experience is quite common. Patients who are treated for hyperthyroidism, or over-active thyroid, with anti-thyroid mediation or radioactive iodine frequently gain weight, typically gaining about 8 lbs.  For patients who subsequently develop hypothyroidism following treatment, their weight gain is usually more so Oprah’s weight gain of 20 lbs is not surprising. As in Oprah’s case, if patients are overweight to begin with or have a history of weight loss, they also more likely to gain weight when treated.

Oprah mentioned that her overactive thyroid didn’t cause weight loss. Many patients don’t have weight loss because their over-active thyroid makes them more hungry so they take in greater calories, which more than offsets their increased metabolism. It’s also important to note that hyperthyroidism also causes loss of metabolically active muscle mass. and each pound of muscle burns up to 50 calories per pound/day. So when patients with an overactive thyroid are treated, the are especially prone to weight gain because not only will the medications and treatment lower their metabolism but they also don’t have as much muscle mass to burn off calories.

Oprah is going to have to be doubly vigilant with what she eats and weight training is a good idea to help build up her lost muscle mass. Kudos to Oprah for being so candid about her recent weight gain. Hopefully her experience can help others. You can check out her post.

 

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Israel October 18, 2007 at 7:11 pm

interesting. what are causes of this and how can we prevent?

Reply

Dr Marc October 18, 2007 at 9:34 pm

It can be caused by an auto-immune disease called Hashimoto's thyroiditis, lack of iodine, from medications such as lithium, viral syndromes, pituitary adenomas, history of brain irradiation, or localized disease of the thyroid gland that results in decreased thyroid hormone production.

Unfortunately a common cause of hypothyroidism is from the medical or surgical treatment of hyperthyroidism, which is what appears to have happened to Oprah

Reply

Anita Farley January 27, 2008 at 9:20 pm

I need help losing weight.I have thyroid problems and i have for years but nobody understands.

Reply

Heaven Ulrich September 30, 2008 at 11:26 am

I have hyperthyroidism and I hate it. I'm border line between that and graves disease.I can't gain weight no matter what I eat. I know some people would say that's a blessing but I bruise so easily and my husband feels like he will break me when he holds me to tight. I have so much energy, I can't sleep for days. Are there certain food that I can eat to trigger a little weight gain. I can gain weight in the butt area, but no where else will take on weight.

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Josee Rioux November 11, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Believe me ! I have had hyperthyroidism and had radio active Iodine and now I have hypothyroidism ….. If I would of known I would of never taken that treatment…. I would of rather died of a heart attack then have hypothyroidism… by far it sucks the most!!!!

Reply

Heaven Ulrich November 11, 2008 at 3:46 pm

@Josee Rioux

I"m sorry to here about that. My sister has hypo as well and had the gastric bypass surgery. she was about 450lbs that was last October, and now one year later she weighs in at 145. Great, but what they don't tell you about the surgery is that they will not take off any saggy skin after you loose the weight. Maybe the stomach, but the rest they consider cosmetic, that's ridicules. The world needs some heavy people in it though all shapes and all sizes!

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Mark Patson December 21, 2009 at 5:37 pm

I've tried many weight gainers over the years and the Dr Max Powers Anabolic Stack is amazing. It goes down super easily with water without any residue or particles. It doesn't fill you up or leave you bloated, apparently that's how it kickstarts your body's anabolic processes. The fact that it isn't heavy or bloating also allows you to keep eating and really pack on those calories you need to build muscle.

Give me great work outs.

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Troy Naugle June 1, 2010 at 3:17 pm

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sea horizon ec showflat August 8, 2013 at 1:00 am

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