Likewise, the amino acids in a protein-rich diet play a big role in both testosterone and muscle growth. As Chris Lockwood, Ph.D., explains, "When combined with training, which increases the sensitivity of androgen receptors, and the consumption of essential amino acids necessary to support protein synthesis, the effects of testosterone on muscle and performance is significantly amplified."[3,4]
The most common "out of balance" testosterone levels are found to be on the low side of normal; this occurs because a male's highest testosterone level usually peaks at about age 20, and then it decreases slowly with age. It has been suggested that a 1% decrease in testosterone level per year is not unusual for middle-aged (30 to 50 years old) and older males. While this decrease may not be noticeable in some men, others may experience significant changes starting in their middle-aged years or more commonly at age 60 and above. This drop in testosterone levels is sometimes termed hypogonadism, "male menopause" or andropause.
A diagnosis of low testosterone is typically made if a man’s free testosterone hormone level is below 300 ng/dL. But as a doctor specializing in sexual health, I typically consider optimized male testosterone levels somewhere between 600 to 800 ng/dL—rarely above or below those numbers. The tests that I routinely recommend to my male clients can be found in this test panel and include biomarkers associated with testosterone, free and total (this includes sex-hormone binding globulin [SHBG]), estradiol, estrogen (total and serum), cortisol, DHEAs, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), hemoglobin A1C, and vitamin D.
A loophole in FDA regulations allows pharmaceutical marketers to urge men to talk to their doctors if they have certain "possible signs" of testosterone deficiency. "Virtually everybody asks about this now because the direct-to-consumer marketing is so aggressive," says Dr. Michael O'Leary, a urologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. "Tons of men who would never have asked me about it before started to do so when they saw ads that say 'Do you feel tired?'"
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.
There are supplements out there that promise to increase your libido while also upping your testosterone. There are over the counter testosterone supplements and prescription supplements. There are supplements that market themselves as T-boosters, while also touting themselves as an aphrodisiac. And then there are companies that claim to have developed a testosterone pill that contains the triumvirate of male-enhancing properties: T-boosting, libido-enhancing, and even fertility-increasing. These supplement makers sometimes throw in an additional claim of muscle gain as well.
The bones and the brain are two important tissues in humans where the primary effect of testosterone is by way of aromatization to estradiol. In the bones, estradiol accelerates ossification of cartilage into bone, leading to closure of the epiphyses and conclusion of growth. In the central nervous system, testosterone is aromatized to estradiol. Estradiol rather than testosterone serves as the most important feedback signal to the hypothalamus (especially affecting LH secretion). In many mammals, prenatal or perinatal "masculinization" of the sexually dimorphic areas of the brain by estradiol derived from testosterone programs later male sexual behavior.
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Type 2 diabetes is an important condition in terms of morbidity and mortality, and the prevalence is increasing in the developed and developing world. The prevalence also increases with age. Insulin resistance is a primary pathological feature of type 2 diabetes and predates the onset of diabetes by many years, during which time raised serum insulin levels compensate and maintain normoglycemia. Insulin resistance and/or impaired glucose tolerance are also part of the metabolic syndrome which also comprises an abnormal serum lipid profile, central obesity and hypertension. The metabolic syndrome can be considered to be a pre-diabetic condition and is itself linked to cardiovascular mortality. Table 1 shows the three commonly used definitions of the metabolic syndrome as per WHO, NCEPIII and IDF respectively (WHO 1999; NCEPIII 2001; Zimmet et al 2005).
"A lot of the symptoms are mirrored by other medical problems," Hedges says. "And for a long time, we were not attributing them to low testosterone, but to diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. But awareness and appreciation of low testosterone has risen. We recognize now that low testosterone may be at the root of problems."