This article is reviewed by a team of registered dietitians and medical doctors with extensive, practical clinical and public health experience.
Benefits of Testosterone: 5 Common Therapies for Men
Testosterone is a sex hormone found both in men and women. It is found to be more abundant in men and plays a vital role during puberty, during which a surge of this hormone ignites changes in the male body. These include the deepening of the voice, increased muscle mass, sperm production in the testicles, the growth of facial/body hair, and more.
The testosterone levels in males remain high during the late teens and through to the early twenties. However, after the age of thirty, the levels begin and continue to drop away, leaving behind various adverse effects on the body. This age-related low testosterone syndrome can lead to multiple symptoms such as increased fat mass, disturbances in cognitive function, and even weakened bones.
Recent research has shed extra light on what depleting testosterone levels can cause, and the effect has been an increased interest in testosterone therapy, such as supplementation. Low testosterone levels can also lead to decreased muscle mass, low libido, and poor sexual performance in addition to lowered bone density and mild cognitive impairment problems.
Luckily, you do have options if your testosterone levels are off. Testosterone therapy, testosterone supplements, and other lifestyle changes can be utilized to help you feel healthier and stronger both physically and mentally, even in men over 50!
What Are the Benefits of Testosterone?
Research and studies of the benefits of adequate amounts of testosterone in the body are still ongoing, but many of the facts and findings are a little mixed at best. However, some evidence suggests that testosterone can benefit the circulatory system and prevent cardiovascular disease in certain ways. This is because, in blood vessels and heart muscle cells, we have receptors that bind to testosterone.
Studies have shown slight improvements in men’s symptoms with angina once they had received testosterone treatment with patches. The most noticeable trial saw 33% of male heart failure patients display improvement in their symptoms after receiving testosterone injections over a 12 week period.
Testosterone also stimulates the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow, and shallow levels of testosterone can lead to anemia because of lowered red blood cell production. Furthermore, testosterone can widen the arteries, increasing blood flow in the body and improving overall circulation as well. This can help prevent blockages in the arteries that lead to heart attacks.
Testosterone helps to increase muscle mass during puberty in males. Any exercise added by young adults into their daily lives quickly increases this natural built-in physique sculptor further still because of the surplus of testosterone produced at this stage in life. However, once testosterone levels fall, it becomes harder to maintain muscle definition, and this is where testosterone therapy can help.
Symptoms of low testosterone include poor physique, lack of stamina, and poor muscle definition. There may also be more body fat present, and this is because testosterone promotes protein synthesis, which helps produce lean muscle. The deterioration of this process can lead to an increase in body fat and the loss of muscle mass as well.
An adequate testosterone level increases human growth hormone release, which again naturally aids in the development of muscle. This hormone, as well as testosterone, acts as a fat burner. Normal levels of testosterone allow the human body to burn fat more efficiently.
Blood testing is the best way to confirm testosterone deficiency, although the symptoms above are still indicators of developing problems. Once verified, testosterone injections or supplementation can help improve a person’s physique once more.
Age-related low serum testosterone concentrations add fuel to the fire when it comes to the loss of bone density, which itself is already a consequence of aging. Lowered testosterone can lead to a marked decrease in bone density and the weakening of bones in general. This increases the chances of individuals suffering fractures, even from minor falls. Furthermore, inadequate long-term levels of serum testosterone can even lead to osteoporosis.
Testosterone therapy has been used on individuals who have suffered bone density loss. The results have shown that this therapy can restore bone strength and bone density. This happens more so in the trabecular than the peripheral bone and in the spine than in the hips.
This increase in bone density and the strengthening of some bones, in general, comes down to having an adequate supply of testosterone that can be converted into estradiol and then utilized by the bones.
Central Nervous System
Long-term stress can play havoc with the central nervous system. This is because stress and nervous tension increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn interferes with testosterone levels.
Low testosterone levels can increase feelings of nervousness and anxiety, including social anxiety. It is thought that restoring testosterone levels to normal can help calm the central nervous system and bring relief from all the symptoms that accompany stress and anxiety generally.
Some doctors believe that low levels of testosterone are linked to mood swings, depression, and other mental issues. Aggression has been associated with having too much testosterone, and this is thought to play a role in the anti-social behavior of young men in society.
Brain cells have testosterone receptors; therefore, it makes sense that testosterone can directly affect mood, mind, and behavior. While aggression may result from too much serum testosterone, mood swings can directly result from a deficiency of this hormone. Even depression has been linked to lowered testosterone levels, commonly accompanying the so-called male menopause.
Testosterone is known to improve sexual function in aging men by increasing desire, which may be a mood-related effect.
Can Testosterone Increase Size?
It is a myth that testosterone therapy can increase penis size because the penis stays the same size throughout a man’s life, even after the events of puberty. This is the only time the sex hormone directly affects the growth of the male sexual organ.
Too little testosterone affects sexual function because of diminished libido, which can lead to problems with arousal. Still, those who suffer from low levels of testosterone do not undergo any changes in size either.
What Are the Risks of Testosterone Therapy?
Testosterone therapy has its health benefits, but it also comes with some risks attached. The following are possible side effects of testosterone therapy:
- Acne and other skin problems
- Enlarged prostate
- Sleep apnea
- Reduced sperm production
How Do Testosterone Levels Change As We Age?
Testosterone triggers significant changes in the body during puberty when levels of this sex hormone are high. Some of the transformations that occur include an increase in muscle mass and the growth of the body, pubic, and facial hair.
Levels of testosterone continue to rage during the teens and twenties, but naturally, they slowly drop away throughout the thirties, forties, and beyond. This continues throughout life, but if it becomes problematic or symptomatic, then this is when testosterone therapy can help with energy levels, mental well-being, bone health, and sex drive.
If you suspect that you have symptoms of low testosterone levels, then you can request a sex hormone-binding globulin test. This is also known as an SHBG test and measures the amount of free, bioavailable testosterone in the body. You can then decide whether testosterone replacement therapy is for you.
There is also a natural approach to keeping testosterone levels boosted once they begin to decline, and this is by living a healthy lifestyle that includes foods heavy in nutrients and light in additives, sugars, and bad fats. Regular exercise, plenty of sleep, and stress management can also halt the natural decline in testosterone levels and can help delay the onset of the multitude of symptoms that accompany unhealthily low levels of this sex hormone, including fatigue, mood swings, bone weakening, and much more.
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- English, K.M., Steeds, R.P., Jones, T.H., Diver, M.J. and Channer, K.S. (2000). Low-Dose Transdermal Testosterone Therapy Improves Angina Threshold in Men With Chronic Stable Angina. Circulation, [online] 102(16), pp.1906–1911. Available at: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.CIR.102.16.1906.
- Harvard Health. (2010). Testosterone and the heart – Harvard Health. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/testosterone-and-the-heart.
- Golds, G., Houdek, D. and Arnason, T. (2017). Male Hypogonadism and Osteoporosis: The Effects, Clinical Consequences, and Treatment of Testosterone Deficiency in Bone Health. International Journal of Endocrinology, [online] 2017, pp.1–15. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5376477/#:~:text=In%20summary%2C%20testosterone%20likely%20has,related%20resorption%20of%20trabecular%20bone..