Low testosterone levels can cause mood disturbances, increased body fat, loss of muscle tone, inadequate erections and poor sexual performance, osteoporosis, difficulty with concentration, memory loss and sleep difficulties. Current research suggests that this effect occurs in only a minority (about 2%) of ageing men. However, there is a lot of research currently in progress to find out more about the effects of testosterone in older men and also whether the use of testosterone replacement therapy would have any benefits.
Commercials do mention other potential side-effects for the male user, calling them "rare," including swollen and painful breasts, blood clots in the legs, increased risk for prostate cancer, problems breathing during sleep (sleep apnea), change in the size and shape of the testicles, and a low sperm count. But you're not supposed to focus on the details. Instead, just think of the energy you'll have. The great sex you'll have. And the muscles. It will be a veritable second adolescence as your aging body bursts into new bloom.
Lets touch on these individually. Gluten has been shown to increase prolactin levels in male mice (48 & 49). Increased prolactin levels in males leads to all sorts of horrible things: Man Boobs (50), High inflammation (51), and most importantly, higher prolactin levels have been shown to be testosterone lowering and lead to shrinking of the testicle (52).
Another effect that can limit treatment is polycythemia, which occurs due to various stimulatory effects of testosterone on erythropoiesis (Zitzmann and Nieschlag 2004). Polycythemia is known to produce increased rates of cerebral ischemia and there have been reports of stroke during testosterone induced polycythaemia (Krauss et al 1991). It is necessary to monitor hematocrit during testosterone treatment, and hematocrit greater than 50% should prompt either a reduction of dose if testosterone levels are high or high-normal, or cessation of treatment if levels are low-normal. On the other hand, late onset hypogonadism frequently results in anemia which will then normalize during physiological testosterone replacement.
Testosterone retains nitrogen and is an essential ingredient in the development and maintenance of muscle mass (Sinha-Hikim et al 2006). With a diminution in testosterone, muscle mass diminishes as does strength. Weakness and fatigue result. A number of studies have demonstrated the ability of testosterone to restore lean body mass (muscle) in hypogonadal men, while at the same time causing a reduction in fat mass (Wang et al 2004). Treatment of hypogonadal men with testosterone results in improvement in overall physical performance as well as strength as assessed by, eg, hand grip power (Page 2005). Because of decreased muscle strength and impaired balance, older hypogonadal men are susceptible to falling and since they may already be osteopenic or osteoporotic as a consequence of hypogonadism, they are at increased risk for fracture as a result of the fall (Szulc et al 2003). Men with low levels of testosterone as in androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer, have a significant decrease in lean body mass and hemoglobin, while at the same time they experience an increase in weight, body fat and body mass index (Smith et al 2002). Treatment of frail hypogonadal men with testosterone, therefore, can result in changes in muscle gene expression, increased muscle mass, improvements in strength, power and endurance and improved physical function.
In summary it’s important to know that this topic is still hotly debated, and there are a lot of inconsistencies in the data. We do know that soy contains phytoestrogens and does seem to have a lot of affects on the body, including some studies that show decreased Testosterone levels. For that reason (and the fact that it tastes like ass) I avoid it, and I recommend you also avoid it (in particular soy isolates!) if you’re seeking higher testosterone.
Some of these signs and symptoms can be caused by various underlying factors, including medication side effects, obstructive sleep apnea, thyroid problems, diabetes and depression. It's also possible that these conditions may be the cause of low testosterone levels, and treatment of these problems may cause testosterone levels to rise. A blood test is the only way to diagnose a low testosterone level.