'I was 24 and going through menopause': Supermodel Karolina Kurkova reveals how thyroid problem caused 30lb weight gain and panic attacks
She is known for her come-hither lips and blonde locks.
But Karolina Kurkova has been through a far more private and less glamorous personal journey, she revealed yesterday.
Speaking with the Council of Fashion Designers of America at their A Well Balanced Life forum yesterday, the Czech model, 27, said that she had just had 'a little procedure' that had left her feeling emotional.
Model figure: Karolina Kurkova revealed that she had a premature menopause because of a thyroid problem three years ago
According to New York Magazine, the Victoria's Secret Angel explained that she 'didn’t know how big [the procedure] was going to be' and that it was related to a thyroid problem.
The magazine said that she emotionally revealed that she gained 30lbs from the problem three years ago – and that a side-effect was 'going through menopause' aged just 24.
'I thought I was going crazy' she said to the panel and guests. 'I was having panic attacks every minute and I didn’t know what was happening, because I’ve been a healthy person. I’ve exercised all my life. I’ve always eaten well and taken care of myself.'
Angelic: Karolina Kurkova, left, models for Victoria's Secret alongside Tyra Banks in 2003, years before developing hypothyroidism. She attended a CFDA panel discussing health in modelling
Though her agency, IMG, did not respond to requests for confirmation of her condition, slender and toned Ms Kurkova
now seems a picture of health – the former Victoria's Secret model,
despite her thyroid problem and its worrying side-effects, went on to
have a baby in October 2009.
Thyroid illness: The facts
According to the ABC's Good Morning America, the symptoms that Ms Kurkova describes do not point to a specific thyroid illness.
While hypothyroidism, causing the release of too few thyroid hormones, is related to early menopause, when it comes to weight gain, it usually only causes a few extra pounds, said Dr Robert McConnell from the New York Thyroid Center at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.
He told GMA that condition is usually associated with people getting 'puffy' and that depression, sluggishness and low tolerance to colds are common.
Panic attacks are typically a symptom of hyperthyroidism – meaning thyroid hormones are too high. However, weight loss – as well as feeling anxious – is associated with the disorder.
The thyroid plays a large part in women's reproductivity and problems with the gland will affect a woman's menstrual cycle.
'Thyroid conditions can cause infertility,' said Dr Loren W Greene, an endocrinologist at NYU Langone Medical Center.
While premature menopause may be related to an autoimmune attack and inflammation, such as chronic thyroiditis or Hashimoto's disease, Dr Greene cautioned that Ms Kurkova's illness may have been related to the dieting that is so much a part of the modelling industry.
'It's much more likely if you're not having periods and you're that skinny that the association has to do with…not having enough body fat to put out sex hormones to have normal periods,' she told GMA.
The 5ft 11in gazelle told the panel that, growing up, she 'was
the one who stood out', reports Huffington Post. Landing the cover of
Vogue at just 16-years-old was a salutary lesson that 'being different is OK,' she said.
The high-powered gathering of fashion names, including Anna Wintour, Arianna Huffington, Elettra Rosellini Weidemann and jeweller,
Monique Pan, joined forces to discuss the importance of health in the
fashion industry – particularly when it comes to models and the
pressures placed upon their figures.
Ms Weidemann, 28, the model-turned-restauranteur daughter of Isabella Rosellini, told MailOnline that the team discussed healthy eating, eating disorders and the importance of a balanced approach to a career in modelling.
'It's important to develop an identity outside of the industry,' she said, adding that 'self-definition' for models should not be all about the modelling world. Whether it's art, music or studying, she said that models should have a back-up plan to help them realise there is more to life than the job.
She said that runway modelling tends to be the preserve of the younger models and to that end, she spoke to the panel about the need for a mentor – in her case, her father – to provide grounding and inspiration.
The forum follows the release of a set of health guidelines by the CFDA at the end of January.
A memo from Diane von Furstenberg, chair of the Council, stipulated, among other points, that designers should 'supply healthy meals, snacks, and water backstage and at shoots and provide nutrition and fitness education' and 'promote a healthy backstage environment by raising the awareness of the
impact of smoking and tobacco-related disease among women, ensuring a
smoke-free environment, and address underage drinking by prohibiting