It’s summer. A time when shirts come off and pale bodies redden or bronze. A good time to talk about vitamin T—testosterone. To those of us burdened (or blessed) with Y-chromosomes, it is important for puberty, growth, reproductive and sexual function, mood, intellect (could you tell?) and strong muscles and bones. But is it the Holy Grail for staying young? Is testosterone and its anabolic brethren (you know: pumpers, gym candy, arnolds, and stackers) the key to a long and healthy life? Here is a collection of truths and myths about testosterone from the archives of this blog:
- Testosterone levels change with age, generally slowly decreasing starting in the mid-thirties. There is also a male equivalent of menopause (andropause) that typically occurs in the 7th and 8th decade of life in which testosterone levels fall more dramatically and permanently.
- Testosterone affects sex drive, but less than you might think. From a planetary view, others things affect sex drive much more commonly, including sleep disorders, stress, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, alcohol, social drugs and medications. Take good care of these issues, rather than getting all agog about testosterone, and you may find yourself in a much better orbit.
- Testosterone is a relatively uncommon cause of erectile dysfunction.
- Belly fat and low testosterone are linked. As the paunch enlarges, it’s likely that testosterone levels fall. In my practice, waist circumference is the 5th vital sign, ranking up right there with blood pressure.
- When it comes to building muscle, very little beats testosterone at this task.
- Despite causing hairiness, sweatiness, smelliness, and to some degree, horniness, testosterone does not cause male pattern baldness or prostate cancer.
- High or low natural testosterone levels do not make men more aggressive or docile.
- Anabolic steroid use is very common among professional, college and high school athletes and bodybuilders. Although steroids are great at improving muscle performance, they can lead to tender breasts, acne, small testicles, and sperm-free ejaculates.
- Over the counter supplements such as DHEA or androstenedione, building blocks for testosterone production, have anabolic effects like testosterone, but are far milder. They also have similar side effects.
- I am a big fan of self-empowerment. If you desire a higher testosterone but are not interested in expensive gels, creams, injections, pellets or patches of testosterone, then consider natural testosterone boosters.
Is testosterone really the holy grail of perpetual youth? Well, the jury is out for a long lunch on this one. For the time being, think of vitamin T in your body as gasoline in your car. You need it to run and to run well. But a half tank of gas is just as good as a full tank, and topping off the gas tank is not going to help the car run any better.