Testosterone is a steroid sex hormone found in both men and women. In men, testosterone is produced primarily by the Leydig (interstitial) cells of the testes when stimulated by luteinizing hormone (LH). It functions to stimulate spermatogenesis, promote physical and functional maturation of spermatozoa, maintain accessory organs of the male reproductive tract, support development of secondary sexual characteristics, stimulate growth and metabolism throughout the body and influence brain development by stimulating sexual behaviors and sexual drive. In women, testosterone is produced by the ovaries (25%), adrenals (25%) and via peripheral conversion from androstenedione (50%). Testerone in women functions to maintain libido and general wellbeing. Testosterone exerts a negative feedback mechanism on pituitary release of LH and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Testosterone may be further converted to dihydrotestosterone or estradiol depending on the tissue.
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Clinical trials of the effect of testosterone on glucose metabolism in men have occurred in diabetic and non-diabetic populations. Data specific to aging males is not available. A series of studies investigated the effects of testosterone or dihydrotestosterone given for 6 weeks or 3 months to middle aged, non-diabetic obese men (Marin, Holmang et al 1992; Marin, Krotkiewski et al 1992; Marin et al 1993). It was found that physiological treatment doses led to improved insulin resistance, as measured by the gold standard technique using a euglycemic clamp and/or serum glucose and insulin responses during glucose tolerance test. These improvements were associated with decreased central obesity, measured by computered tomography (CT) or waist-hip ratio, without reduced total fat mass. Insulin resistance improved more with testosterone than dihydrotestosterone treatment and beneficial effects were greater in men with lower baseline testosterone levels. Increasing testosterone levels into the supraphysiological range lead to decreased glucose tolerance.
Overall, few patients have a compelling contraindication to testosterone treatment. The majority of men with late onset hypogonadism can be safely treated with testosterone but all will require monitoring of prostate parameters HDL cholesterol, hematocrit and psychological state. It is also wise to monitor symptoms of sleep apnea. Other specific concerns may be raised by the mode of delivery such as local side effects from transdermal testosterone.
Testosterone is everywhere playing multiple roles from intrauterine life to advanced age. Table 1, the contents of which are always undergoing change primarily because of newly observed associations, provides an overview of the bodily systemic functions and patho-physiological states in which testosterone finds itself implicated. In some of these states there is a clear physiological cause and effect relationship. In others, evidence of the physiological role is early or tenuous.
The effect excess testosterone has on the body depends on both age and sex. It is unlikely that adult men will develop a disorder in which they produce too much testosterone and it is often difficult to spot that an adult male has too much testosterone. More obviously, young children with too much testosterone may enter a false growth spurt and show signs of early puberty and young girls may experience abnormal changes to their genitalia. In both males and females, too much testosterone can lead to precocious puberty and result in infertility.
So, how does one ensure that testosterone levels remain in balance? Some doctors suggest that monitoring testosterone levels every five years, starting at age 35, is a reasonable strategy to follow. If the testosterone level falls too low or if the individual has the signs and symptoms of low testosterone levels described above, testosterone therapy can be considered. However, once testosterone therapy is initiated, testosterone levels should be closely monitored to make sure that the testosterone level does not become too high, as this may cause stress on the individual, and high testosterone levels may result in some of the negative problems (described previously) seen.
Puberty occurs when there is an “awakening” of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. The hypothalamus increases its secretion of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) which in turn stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This leads to a significant increase in the production of testicular testosterone and the induction of the well-known secondary sex characteristics associated with puberty: growth spurt, increased libido, increased erectile function, acne, increased body hair, increased muscle mass, deepening of the voice, spermatogenesis, gynecomastia (usually transient).
Remember that each person is unique, and each body responds differently to treatment. TT may help erectile function, low sex drive, bone marrow density, anemia, lean body mass, and/or symptoms of depression. However, there is no strong evidence that TT will help memory recall, measures of diabetes, energy, tiredness, lipid profiles, or quality of life.
Many studies demonstrate an improvement in mood of hypogonadal men treated with testosterone (Wang et al 1996; Azad et al 2003). The relationship between testosterone status and mood, particularly depression, remains unresolved. Using Beck’s Depression Inventory, Barrett-Connor and colleagues found that the depression score worsened as men aged, exactly at a time when testosterone levels are decreasing (Barrett-Connor et al 1999). Pope and colleagues found that testosterone treatment in men with refractory depression lowered the Hamilton Depression rating scale and the Clinical Global Impression severity rating (Pope et al 2003). The Beck Depression Inventory remained unchanged in Pope’s study.
More can be learned from a large, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of finasteride treatment in 18,800 men aged 55 or more. Finasteride is a 5α-reductase inhibitor which acts to prevent the metabolism of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) – the most active androgen in the prostate. The trial showed a greater overall incidence of prostate cancer in the control group, but men treated with finasteride were more likely to have high grade tumors (Thompson et al 2003), suggesting that reduced androgen exposure of the prostate may delay the presentation of prostate cancer and/or promote advanced disease in some other way.
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Falling in love decreases men's testosterone levels while increasing women's testosterone levels. There has been speculation that these changes in testosterone result in the temporary reduction of differences in behavior between the sexes. However, it is suggested that after the "honeymoon phase" ends—about four years into a relationship—this change in testosterone levels is no longer apparent. Men who produce less testosterone are more likely to be in a relationship or married, and men who produce more testosterone are more likely to divorce; however, causality cannot be determined in this correlation. Marriage or commitment could cause a decrease in testosterone levels. Single men who have not had relationship experience have lower testosterone levels than single men with experience. It is suggested that these single men with prior experience are in a more competitive state than their non-experienced counterparts. Married men who engage in bond-maintenance activities such as spending the day with their spouse/and or child have no different testosterone levels compared to times when they do not engage in such activities. Collectively, these results suggest that the presence of competitive activities rather than bond-maintenance activities are more relevant to changes in testosterone levels.
Recently, a panel with cooperation from international andrology and urology societies, published specific recommendations with regard to the diagnosis of Late-onset Hypogonadism (Nieschlag et al 2005). These are summarized in the following text. It is advised that at least two serum testosterone measurements, taken before 11 am on different mornings, are necessary to confirm the diagnosis. The second sample should also include measurement of gonadotrophin and prolactin levels, which may indicate the need for further investigations for pituitary disease. Patients with serum total testosterone consistently below 8 nmol/l invariably demonstrate the clinical syndrome of hypogonadism and are likely to benefit from treatment. Patients with serum total testosterone in the range 8–12 nmol/l often have symptoms attributable to hypogonadism and it may be decided to offer either a clinical trial of testosterone treatment or to make further efforts to define serum bioavailable or free testosterone and then reconsider treatment. Patients with serum total testosterone persistently above 12 nmol/l do not have hypogonadism and symptoms are likely to be due to other disease states or ageing per se so testosterone treatment is not indicated.
1. Go Mediterranean. Keeping up with specific types of food that you should or should not eat can be hard, especially if you don’t have a general guide. There are a number of studies that have concluded that the Mediterranean diet can indeed boost the amount of testosterone in the body, and enhance the strength of an erection as well. The Mediterranean diet contains a lot of healthy fat, like polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. Aside from being pro-testosterone, the Mediterranean diet is also the only diet that is certified to help decrease the chances of developing cancer and heart conditions. Those who are taking erection enhancement supplements can also benefit from the Mediterranean diet. This type of diet originated from the Southern part of Greece, and is composed of food groups such as nuts, whole grains, fruits, extra virgin olive oil, red wine, fats and vegetables.
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.