In order to discuss the biochemical diagnosis of hypogonadism it is necessary to outline the usual carriage of testosterone in the blood. Total serum testosterone consists of free testosterone (2%–3%), testosterone bound to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) (45%) and testosterone bound to other proteins (mainly albumin −50%) (Dunn et al 1981). Testosterone binds only loosely to albumin and so this testosterone as well as free testosterone is available to tissues and is termed bioavailable testosterone. Testosterone bound to SHBG is tightly bound and is biologically inactive. Bioavailable and free testosterone are known to correlate better than total testosterone with clinical sequelae of androgenization such as bone mineral density and muscle strength (Khosla et al 1998; Roy et al 2002). There is diurnal variation in serum testosterone levels with peak levels seen in the morning following sleep, which can be maintained into the seventh decade (Diver et al 2003). Samples should always be taken in the morning before 11 am to allow for standardization.

Intracoronary artery infusion of testosterone causes significant coronary artery dilatation and not constriction as previously thought (Webb et al 1999). When degree of coronary obstruction is assessed by angiography, there is a direct relationship between degree of coronary artery narrowing and reduced testosterone levels (Phillips et al 1994). Men with low testosterone levels have been observed to have: premature atherosclerosis, increased visceral adipose tissue, hyperinsulinemia, and other risk factors for myocardial infarction (Phillips 2005). Insulin resistance has been shown to be associated with a decrease in Leydig cell secretion of testosterone (Pitteloud et al 2005). Muller and colleagues suggest that low endogenous total testosterone and SHBG levels increase the risk of metabolic syndrome in aging and aged men. They demonstrated that low levels of testosterone are related to lower insulin sensitivity and higher fasting insulin levels (Muller et al 2005). These authors speculate that testosterone might play a protective role in the development of metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease in aging men.

Saw palmetto: Uses, dosage, and side effects Saw palmetto is an extract from the berries of a type of palm tree. The berries have traditionally been used to ease urinary and reproductive problems. The extract is now used in herbal remedies to stabilize testosterone. Learn about its use, its effectiveness, the science behind the claims, and any side effects. Read now