Seasonal and socioeconomic influences on thyroid function among the Yakut (Sakha) of Eastern Siberia

Stephanie B. Levy*, William R. Leonard, Larissa A. Tarskaia, Tatiana M. Klimova, Valentina I. Fedorova, Marina E. Baltakhinova, Vadim G. Krivoshapkin, James J. Snodgrass

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objectives: Previous research has shown that the extreme cold and short day lengths of polar winters promote increased production and uptake of thyroid hormones, resulting in marked declines in free triiodothyronine (fT3). However, this "polar T3 syndrome" has been documented almost exclusively on small samples of male sojourners and little is known about seasonal changes in thyroid function among indigenous circumpolar groups. The present study addresses this gap by examining seasonal changes in thyroid hormone levels among the indigenous Yakut (Sakha) of northeastern Siberia. Methods: Anthropometric dimensions and thyroid measures (fT3, free thyroxine [fT4], thyroid-stimulating hormone [TSH]) were obtained on two occasions (July/August, 2009 and January 2011) on a sample of 134 Yakut adults (51 men, 83 women) from the village of Berdygestiakh, Sakha Republic/Yakutia, Russia. Results: Yakut men and women both displayed significant declines in fT3 and fT4, and significant increases in TSH from summer to winter despite showing only modest seasonal changes in body mass and composition. Among men, gains in fat-free mass (FFM) were associated with larger reductions in fT3 and greater increases in TSH. Men living more traditional lifeways showed larger winter declines in fT4 and greater increases in TSH. Conclusions: The Yakut exhibited significant winter declines in fT3 levels similar to other circumpolar groups studied. However, the magnitude of seasonal change was greater in the Yakut, perhaps reflecting their distinctive metabolic physiology. Lifestyle factors play a mediating role in thyroid responses, such that men with more traditional lifeways had more exaggerated seasonal changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)814-820
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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