Findings that improvements in serum glucose, serum insulin, insulin resistance or glycemic control, in men treated with testosterone are accompanied by reduced measures of central obesity, are in line with other studies showing a specific effect of testosterone in reducing central or visceral obesity (Rebuffe-Scrive et al 1991; Marin, Holmang et al 1992). Furthermore, studies that have shown neutral effects of testosterone on glucose metabolism have not measured (Corrales et al 2004), or shown neutral effects (Lee et al 2005) (Tripathy et al 1998; Bhasin et al 2005) on central obesity. Given the known association of visceral obesity with insulin resistance, it is possible that testosterone treatment of hypogonadal men acts to improve insulin resistance and diabetes through an effect in reducing central obesity. This effect can be explained by the action of testosterone in inhibiting lipoprotein lipase and thereby reducing triglyceride uptake into adipocytes (Sorva et al 1988), an action which seems to occur preferentially in visceral fat (Marin et al 1995; Marin et al 1996). Visceral fat is thought to be more responsive to hormonal changes due to a greater concentration of androgen receptors and increased vascularity compared with subcutaneous fat (Bjorntorp 1996). Further explanation of the links between hypogonadism and obesity is offered by the hypogonadal-obesity-adipocytokine cycle hypothesis (see Figure 1). In this model, increases in body fat lead to increases in aromatase levels, in addition to insulin resistance, adverse lipid profiles and increased leptin levels. Increased action of aromatase in metabolizing testosterone to estrogen, reduces testosterone levels which induces further accumulation of visceral fat. Higher leptin levels and possibly other factors, act at the pituitary to suppress gonadotrophin release and exacerbate hypogonadism (Cohen 1999; Kapoor et al 2005). Leptin has also been shown to reduce testosterone secretion from rodent testes in vitro (Tena-Sempere et al 1999). A full review of the relationship between testosterone, insulin resistance and diabetes can be found elsewhere (Kapoor et al 2005; Jones 2007).
A: According to the package insert, there are several longer-term side effects that have occurred with testosterone therapy. Testosterone can stimulate the growth of cancerous tissue. Prostate cancer or enlargement of the prostate can develop during prolonged therapy with testosterone, and these conditions are more likely to occur in elderly men. In patients receiving testosterone therapy, tests for prostate cancer should be performed as is current practice. Androgen therapy, such as testosterone, can cause a loss of blood sugar control in patients with diabetes. Close monitoring of blood glucose is recommended. Male patients can experience feminization during prolonged therapy with testosterone. The side effects of feminization include breast soreness and enlargement. These side effects are generally reversible when treatment is stopped. Hair loss resembling male pattern baldness has also occurred. Sexual side effects including decreased ejaculatory volume and low sperm counts have occurred in patients receiving long-term therapy or excessive doses. For more information, please consult with your health care provider and visit //www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/testosterone. Michelle McDermott, PharmD
A: Testosterone products can improve a male's muscle strength and create a more lean body mass. Typically, these effects are not noticed within the first two weeks of therapy, but it is possible that he is more sensitive and responds well to the therapy. Some of the other more common side effects of testosterone patches are headache, depression, rash, changes in libido, acne, male pattern baldness, and increased cholesterol levels. This is not a complete list of the side effects associated with testosterone patches. Megan Uehara, PharmD
Overall, it seems that both estrogen and testosterone are important for normal bone growth and maintenance. Deficiency or failure of action of the sex hormones is associated with osteoporosis and minimal trauma fractures. Estrogen in males is produced via metabolism of testosterone by aromatase and it is therefore important that androgens used for the treatment of hypogonadism be amenable to the action of aromatase to yield maximal positive effects on bone. There is data showing that testosterone treatment increases bone mineral density in aging males but that these benefits are confined to hypogonadal men. The magnitude of this improvement is greater in the spine than in the hip and further studies are warranted to confirm or refute any differential effects of testosterone at these important sites. Improvements seen in randomized controlled trials to date may underestimate true positive effects due to relatively short duration and/or baseline characteristics of the patients involved. There is no data as yet to confirm that the improvement in bone density with testosterone treatment reduces fractures in men and this is an important area for future study.
Vitamin D supplementation may potentially boost testosterone levels, but further research is needed to determine if it really has an effect on the testosterone levels of young people and athletes. The truth is likely similar to zinc and magnesium — being in a deficient state causes your testosterone levels to drop below baseline, and supplementing it just takes you right back to baseline (but not any higher).