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.
When we face stress, our adrenal glands secrete cortisol to prepare our bodies and minds to handle the stressful situation — the primal fight-or-flight response. In small dosages, cortisol is fine and even useful, but elevated cortisol levels for prolonged periods can do some serious damage to our bodies and minds. One area that seems to take a hit when cortisol is high is our testosterone levels. Several studies have shown a link between cortisol and testosterone. When cortisol levels are high, testosterone levels are low; and when testosterone levels are high, cortisol levels are low.
Now that we know chronic insulin spikes lead to lower Testosterone production, I hope I haven’t sent you running into the low carb camp! There are a few studies out there showing that long term low carb or ketogenic dieting leads to higher cortisol levels (especially with subjects who are training), and decreased testosterone levels (28 & 29). I have used low carb diets in the past with successful results (winning a national bodybuilding title), however the key is to use cyclical carb re-feeds. If you’re going to go on a low carb diet for whatever reason, be sure to work in a large carb reefed once a week.
Among the changes which occur with aging are those that affect several aspects of the endocrine system which reduces its secretions to varying degrees in different individuals. These reductions in secretions are identified by a poor but widely recognized appellation, the “pauses”: menopause (decreased ovarian function), adrenopause (decreased adrenal function, especially with regard to dehydroepiandrosterone secretion), somatopause (decreased growth hormone production), andropause (decreased hypothalamic-pituitary testicular function with diminished testosterone availability and impaired spermatogenesis) (Lamberts 1997).
In summary, low testosterone levels are linked to the presence of numerous cardiovascular risk factors. Testosterone treatment acts to improve some of these factors, but effects may vary according to pre- and post-treatment testosterone levels, as well as other factors. There is little data from trials specific to aging males. Appropriately-powered randomized controlled trials, with cardiovascular disease primary endpoints, are needed to clarify the situation, but in the meantime the balance of evidence is that testosterone has either neutral or beneficial effects on the risk of cardiovascular disease in men. It is particularly important to define the effect of testosterone treatment on cardiovascular disease in view of its potential use as an anti-anginal agent.