Hooper, D. R., Kraemer, W. J., Saenz, C., Schill, K. E., Focht, B. C., Volek, J. S. … Maresh, C. M. (2017, July). The presence of symptoms of testosterone deficiency in the exercise-hypogonadal male condition and the role of nutrition [Abstract]. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 117(7), 1349–1357. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28470410
Dr. Darryn Willoughby, a professor of health, human performance and recreation and the director of the Exercise and Biochemical Nutrition Laboratory at Baylor University, told us that even in studies where there was an increase in testosterone, it was only around 15–20 percent. “In men with clinically normal testosterone levels, this modest increase will most likely not be anabolic enough to improve exercise performance,” he says. So if you have normal testosterone levels, and are simply trying to get an extra edge in gaining muscle, losing weight, or some extra time in the bedroom — you might see some results from taking a testosterone booster. But really, these will be most useful for men with low testosterone trying to get back to a healthy testosterone range.
Dobs and colleagues found that men with an increased body mass index had both reduced testosterone and reduced high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Treatment with testosterone increased the levels of HDL (Dobs et al 2001). Rising levels of HDL are not a consistent finding with TRT. More often, however, one finds reduced total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels with TRT (Zgliczynski et al 1996; Whitsel et al 2001).
The mechanism of age related decreases in serum testosterone levels has also been the subject of investigation. Metabolic clearance declines with age but this effect is less pronounced than a reduction in testosterone production, so the overall effect is to reduce serum testosterone levels. Gonadotrophin levels rise during aging (Feldman et al 2002) and testicular secretory responses to recombinant human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) are reduced (Mulligan et al 1999, 2001). This implies that the reduced production may be caused by primary testicular failure but in fact these changes are not adequate to fully explain the fall in testosterone levels. There are changes in the lutenising hormone (LH) production which consist of decreased LH pulse frequency and amplitude, (Veldhuis et al 1992; Pincus et al 1997) although pituitary production of LH in response to pharmacological stimulation with exogenous GnRH analogues is preserved (Mulligan et al 1999). It therefore seems likely that there are changes in endogenous production of GnRH which underlie the changes in LH secretion and have a role in the age related decline in testosterone. Thus the decreases in testosterone levels with aging seem to reflect changes at all levels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis. With advancing age there is also a reduction in androgen receptor concentration in some target tissues and this may contribute to the clinical syndrome of LOH (Ono et al 1988; Gallon et al 1989).
In a recent study of male workers, men with low testosterone levels had an increased chance of severe erectile dysfunction (Kratzik et al 2005), although such a link had not been found previously (Rhoden et al 2002). Certainly erectile dysfunction is considered part of the clinical syndrome of hypogonadism, and questions regarding erectile dysfunction form part of the clinical assessment of patients with hypogonadism (Morley et al 2000; Moore et al 2004).
The normal development of the prostate gland is dependent on the action of testosterone via the androgen receptor, and abnormal biosynthesis of the hormone or inactivating mutations of the androgen receptor are associated with a rudimentary prostate gland. Testosterone also requires conversion to dihydrotestosterone in the prostate gland for full activity. In view of this link between testosterone and prostate development, it is important to consider the impact that testosterone replacement may have on the prevalence and morbidity associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and prostate cancer, which are the common conditions related to pathological growth of the prostate gland.
Trials of testosterone treatment in men with type 2 diabetes have also taken place. A recent randomized controlled crossover trial assessed the effects of intramuscular testosterone replacement to achieve levels within the physiological range, compared with placebo injections in 24 men with diabetes, hypogonadism and a mean age of 64 years (Kapoor et al 2006). Ten of these men were insulin treated. Testosterone treatment led to a significant reduction in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) and fasting glucose compared to placebo. Testosterone also produced a significant reduction in insulin resistance, measured by the homeostatic model assessment (HOMA), in the fourteen non-insulin treated patients. It is not possible to measure insulin resistance in patients treated with insulin but five out of ten of these patients had a reduction of insulin dose during the study. Other significant changes during testosterone treatment in this trial were reduced total cholesterol, waist circumference and waist-hip ratio. Similarly, a placebo-controlled but non-blinded trial in 24 men with visceral obesity, diabetes, hypogonadism and mean age 57 years found that three months of oral testosterone treatment led to significant reductions in HbA1C, fasting glucose, post-prandial glucose, weight, fat mass and waist-hip ratio (Boyanov et al 2003). In contrast, an uncontrolled study of 150 mg intramuscular testosterone given to 10 patients, average age 64 years, with diabetes and hypogonadism found no significant change in diabetes control, fasting glucose or insulin levels (Corrales et al 2004). Another uncontrolled study showed no beneficial effect of testosterone treatment on insulin resistance, measured by HOMA and ‘minimal model’ of area under acute insulin response curves, in 11 patients with type 2 diabetes aged between 33 and 73 years (Lee et al 2005). Body mass index was within the normal range in this population and there was no change in waist-hip ratio or weight during testosterone treatment. Baseline testosterone levels were in the low-normal range and patients received a relatively small dose of 100 mg intramuscular testosterone every three weeks. A good increase in testosterone levels during the trial is described but it is not stated at which time during the three week cycle the testosterone levels were tested, so the lack of response could reflect an insufficient overall testosterone dose in the trial period.
Type 2 diabetes is an important condition in terms of morbidity and mortality, and the prevalence is increasing in the developed and developing world. The prevalence also increases with age. Insulin resistance is a primary pathological feature of type 2 diabetes and predates the onset of diabetes by many years, during which time raised serum insulin levels compensate and maintain normoglycemia. Insulin resistance and/or impaired glucose tolerance are also part of the metabolic syndrome which also comprises an abnormal serum lipid profile, central obesity and hypertension. The metabolic syndrome can be considered to be a pre-diabetic condition and is itself linked to cardiovascular mortality. Table 1 shows the three commonly used definitions of the metabolic syndrome as per WHO, NCEPIII and IDF respectively (WHO 1999; NCEPIII 2001; Zimmet et al 2005).
In non-human primates, it may be that testosterone in puberty stimulates sexual arousal, which allows the primate to increasingly seek out sexual experiences with females and thus creates a sexual preference for females. Some research has also indicated that if testosterone is eliminated in an adult male human or other adult male primate's system, its sexual motivation decreases, but there is no corresponding decrease in ability to engage in sexual activity (mounting, ejaculating, etc.).
Epidemiological studies have also assessed links between serum testosterone and non-coronary atherosclerosis. A study of over 1000 people aged 55 years and over found an inverse correlation between serum total and bioavailable testosterone and the amount of aortic atherosclerosis in men, as assessed by radiological methods (Hak et al 2002). Increased intima-media thickness (IMT) is an early sign of atherosclerosis and has also been shown to predict cardiovascular mortality (Murakami et al 2005). Cross-sectional studies have found that testosterone levels are negatively correlated with carotid IMT in independently living men aged 74–93 years (van den Beld et al 2003), diabetic men (Fukui et al 2003) and young obese men (De Pergola et al 2003). A 4-year follow up study of the latter population showed that free testosterone was also inversely correlated with the rate of increase of IMT (Muller et al 2004).
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and an anabolic steroid. In male humans, testosterone plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues such as testes and prostate, as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle and bone mass, and the growth of body hair. In addition, testosterone is involved in health and well-being, and the prevention of osteoporosis. Insufficient levels of testosterone in men may lead to abnormalities including frailty and bone loss.
Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Chavarro, J. E., Mendiola, J., Roca, M., Tanrikut, C., Vioque, J., ... Torres-Cantero, A. M. (2017, March–April). Fatty acid intake in relation to reproductive hormones and testicular volume among young healthy men [Abstract]. Asian Journal of Andrology, 19(2), 184–190. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27834316
The University of Connecticut recently published findings stating that those who supplemented with whey protein produced less cortisol, a stress hormone, than those who did not supplement. Cortisol lowers production of sex hormones and is also responsible for belly fat formation. Ricotta is an excellent source of natural whey protein and amino acids, both of which are essential to muscle growth and avoiding the spare tire.
Testosterone boosters are a class of herbal supplements aimed at naturally increasing your testosterone levels. Usually, they contain micronutrients that men are commonly deficient in, such as zinc, and which have been connected in research to healthy testosterone levels. They also may contain adaptogens, which are a class of supplement that are thought to help the body adapt to stress, or ingredients which have been connected to improved sleep. Sleep restriction has been shown to reduce testosterone in healthy young men, and as Chris Lockwood, Ph.D., notes, disturbed sleep is a common symptom of low T-levels.
Mental status changes including excess aggression are a well known phenomenon in the context of anabolic steroid abuse (Perry et al 1990). An increase in self-reported aggressive behaviors have also been reported in one double blind placebo controlled trial of testosterone in young hypogonadal men (Finkelstein et al 1997), but this has not been confirmed in other studies (Skakkebaek et al 1981; O’Connor et al 2002). Aggression should therefore be monitored but in our experience is rarely a significant problem during testosterone replacement producing physiological levels.
Common side effects from testosterone medication include acne, swelling, and breast enlargement in males. Serious side effects may include liver toxicity, heart disease, and behavioral changes. Women and children who are exposed may develop virilization. It is recommended that individuals with prostate cancer not use the medication. It can cause harm if used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
While steroids like DHEA can be used to boost testosterone, if used in the wrong dosages or by people who don’t need them they can raise T-levels far beyond the normal range, which is what causes accelerated muscle gain. According to Dr. Emil Hodzovic, who is a competitive bodybuilder as well as a doctor with Medichecks, steroids come with “a set of risks, including liver damage, hormone imbalance, high blood pressure, and a higher risk of a stroke or heart attack”.
The amount of testosterone synthesized is regulated by the hypothalamic–pituitary–testicular axis (see figure to the right). When testosterone levels are low, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is released by the hypothalamus, which in turn stimulates the pituitary gland to release FSH and LH. These latter two hormones stimulate the testis to synthesize testosterone. Finally, increasing levels of testosterone through a negative feedback loop act on the hypothalamus and pituitary to inhibit the release of GnRH and FSH/LH, respectively.
Vitamin D is arguably the most important vitamin when it comes to testosterone. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology examined the relationship between vitamin D supplementation and testosterone levels in men. The authors found that participants with higher levels of vitamin D had significantly higher levels of free testosterone compared to those with insufficient levels of vitamin D.8 Based on these study results, it appears vitamin D has a strong relationship with testosterone levels.
"A lot of the symptoms are mirrored by other medical problems," Hedges says. "And for a long time, we were not attributing them to low testosterone, but to diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. But awareness and appreciation of low testosterone has risen. We recognize now that low testosterone may be at the root of problems."