There has been a lot of hype about testosterone the last few years. I say hype because the claims have run way ahead of the science. So, before you start using testosterone, or urge your bride to do so, how about some information? (Several articles listed at the bottom, if you want to do more reading.)
There are those who claim testosterone replacement is the next best thing to the fountain of youth; you gain muscle, you lose weight, your sex drive and ability are like when you were twenty, you sleep better, stop being depressed, have more energy, think more clearly, are able to leap a tall buildings with a single bound, and on and on. At best, these are exaggerations of effects seen in some men.
It is looking like there is no simple “dose related” effect from testosterone, meaning you cannot get more of what testosterone does just by having more testosterone in your system. Above a certain level, adding more has no good effects, and possibly some very bad effects. Studies show that in men with testosterone in the normal range, actual levels had nothing to do with sex drive, or sexual frequency.
One big problem is we do not have a handle on what “normal” levels means. Look at two men with the same levels of testosterone and one is showing signs of low testosterone, while the other is not. The first might benefit from testosterone supplementing, the second will not. Additional testosterone may be safer for the first man than the second, but even this has not been conclusively proven.
There are no good long-term studies on the safety of testosterone, even for men who start with very low levels. Additionally, many studies designed to look at symptom improvements are flawed, and the data is inconsistent. In some studies there was a scientifically measurable change with more muscle and less fat, but no measurable change in strength or mobility.
The real question yet to be answered is if the benefits outweigh the risks. Given that neither the risks nor the benefits have been established, it is impossible to make a determination. And yes, there are risks. Several studies have suggested testosterone can increase the chance of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks, respiratory problems, and kidney problems. In fact, one study of older men was halted because 22% of those using testosterone suffered cardiovascular problems, as compared to only 5% on the placebo. Other possible side effects include an increase in sleep apnoea, benign prostate enlargement, and liver damage. The good news is recent studies have cast doubt on earlier claims of increased prostate cancer, but testosterone likely does speed the growth of prostate cancer when it is present.
I am not saying no man should be taking testosterone. I know men who say taking testosterone changed their lives for the better, and I believe them. However, the science on this is spotty at best, so there is no way to know who is likely to benefit and who is not. More critically, there is no way to know what or how much risk is associated with taking testosterone. If you really think this is for you, I would suggest you be very proactive about getting regular testing of your heart!
What about women? Testosterone has been suggested as a cure all for low sex drive in women, and especially in post-menopausal women. Thing is, a recent study found that higher levels of testosterone in women resulted in them having an increased desire to masturbate, but not to have sex with a partner. No one has done a study to see if giving women testosterone increases their desire to masturbate, but it seems possible this is the case. Hardly the result most men want!
Adverse Events Associated with Testosterone Administration
Testosterone Supplementation For Older Men Appears To Have Limited Benefit
Effect of Testosterone Supplementation on Functional Mobility, Cognition, and Other Parameters in Older Men A Randomized Controlled Trial
Manly’ Hormone Turns Women onto Masturbation (But Not Sex)
FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA evaluating risk of stroke, heart attack and death with FDA-approved testosterone products
FDA adding general warning to testosterone products about potential for venous blood clots