So, what do we know? We know that at the Endocrine Society annual meeting in Washington this week, Dr. Martin Surks, a professor of endocrinology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, gave a presentation titled "Genetic Predisposition to Elevated Serum Thyrotropin is Associated with Exceptional Longevity."
According to Dr. Surks, researchers took a group of 100-year old 236 Ashkenazi Jews -- along with their 70-something children -- and measured their thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. They found that the centenarians and their children had slightly elevated levels of TSH -- and 40 percent of the centenarians had TSH levels above 2.5.
So the scientists have decided that, though they don't know why, a slightly slower metabolism might promote longevity.
Before we get worked up...it's just a theory, right? And before anyone could assume that the hypothyroidism was somehow a positive, you'd have to look at all the various factors --especially genetic similarities in Ashkenazi Jews, and an unusual variant in their TSH receptors that they shared -- that might predispose them to longevity. Right?
Well, you might think it's just a theory, but here's what study co-author Martin Surks, MD had to say: "This is sort of a revolutionary finding. A year or two ago, higher TSH was thought to be a disease that might warrant treatment. These findings in this very select population suggest the opposite. Higher TSH could actually benefit you."
Yes... one of the nation's leading endocrinologists DID in fact say, "a year or two ago, higher TSH was thought to be a disease that might warrant treatment."
Then you have Dr. Jacob Warman, chief of endocrinology at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York, who added his two cents: "I see a lot of people with this elevated TSH, and I usually do not treat all of them unless I see the TSH levels going up to above 10." (Before we remind Dr. Warman that the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology recommends that doctors consider treatment for TSH levels above 3.0, in his defense, he did suggest that people with elevated TSH levels also get antibodies testing for Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and recommended treatment because Hashimoto's hypothyroidism usually worsens over time.)
But still....they don't treat until TSH levels are over 10???
Is it not enough that millions of people have thyroid problems that are undiagnosed? Now, it seems that doctors are actively looking for yet more reasons to NOT treat people with thyroid problems?
What about the hundreds of peer-reviewed, double-blind medical journal studies that show that borderline, subclinical and mild hypothyroidism is associated with a laundry list of health challenges, including heart disease, high cholesterol, infertility, miscarriage, prematurity, metabolic syndrome, obesity, depression, Alzheimer's disease, and cognitive and developmental problems in the offspring of affected mothers? What about the fact that most of us are NOT Ashkenazi Jews with changes to our TSH receptors?
Yes, it's interesting that this small group of centenarians had a thyroid similarity. But when researchers present their findings without the context of all the knowledge we have about subclinical hypothyroidism, and the media start pumping out the "Slightly Underactive Thyroid May Be a Plus" stories, you just know thyroid patients are going to suffer.
It's just another level of misinformation that is doing a disservice to the millions of people who are in the limbo of a TSH level above 3.0 and who can't get diagnosed or properly treated.
So this group of folks lived to be 100, with mildly hypothyroid TSH levels. Here's the question I would ask. Did they have to spend the better part of those 100 years exhausted, overweight, depressed and with a nonexistent sex drive in order to make it to 100?