The People's Perspective on Medicine

Testosterone Troubles Halt Study

Q. I am a 54-year-old male and I have noticed a drop-off in sexual performance as well as in other parts of my life. I have seen commercials for products that are supposed to boost testosterone.

Do such products work? Is there a downside?

A. Men who have low levels of the male hormone testosterone may experience fatigue, reduced sex drive, diminished muscular strength and weaker bones. Although boosting testosterone levels can reverse such symptoms, this hormone may produce some unexpected negative consequences.

A small study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (July 8, 2010) reports that men who received testosterone via a topically applied gel experienced improved arm and leg strength and increased mobility. They had more cardiovascular complications, however, including heart attacks. The study was halted prematurely because of safety concerns.

Until we have better data on both the benefits and risks of supplemental testosterone, we think it’s wise to be cautious about raising your hormone level.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Your comments about testosterone are now almost 4 years old. Is there new info that might help determine if it is wise to use these gels, etc? Reports about heart attack and stroke seem to be surfacing in the media.

At age 53 I started noticing bad changes in my physical and mental state. Lack of libido, muscle weakness, inability to achieve an erection, and no emotion except anger. I did some internet research and had my MD test my testosterone level. It was very low so he prescribed Andro Gel( 5mg/day). I have been taking it regularly for over 3 years and I feel great! I’m working out 5 days a week and my mood is back to normal again. I was totally miserable before and I will gladly take the risks associated with HRT to keep feeling good. I have a physical every year and so far no problems. If it weren’t for HRT, I would be a total wreck of a man.

The side effects of testosterone were already well known, as it is synonymous with steroids. These side effects come from messing with your hormone balance.
Products that boost your body’s own natural testosterone production don’t have this issue. Instead the real issue there is whether or not they work at all, as they are not FDA regulated and studies are limited. For example a later study on chrysin shows that it doesn’t work in humans. You can try looking into research on various options and what others have tried.
Avoiding estrogen pollutants (look up xenoestrogen), soy and flax doesn’t hurt either.

I was just told by mt General Practitioner that the only way to increase testosterone is “replacement therapy” (gels, pathces, etc…) & with that there was significant risk of prostate cancer, heart disease, & the inability to have children. I was STUNNED! I am 38 & my testosterone is low, I have all the symptoms (sleep issues, low energy, lost of memory, inability to lose weight, etc…) I am very discouraged but I am determined to reverse this (if its possible) any input is appreciated.

I would think that this problem (testosterone deficiency) would be at epidemic proportions because of all the estrogenic compounds (like soy and plastics) in our foods and environment. But I have heard that passion fruit has a balancing effect on hormones, so you might want to look into that. Also there’s a supplement called DeAromatase which is useful for prostate health — it contains chrysin which is found in passion fruit.
Definitely it would pay to consult a physician if you think you are deficient — my brother started using the patches and it helped him immensely. And ironically, it may actually have a calming effect if you get the optimal levels of testosterone. So try to avoid plastics when heating foods — and avoid soy unless you sparingly use the fermented forms (natto, miso, tempeh, tofu). If we don’t start really questioning the profoundly-processed foods we eat, we may indeed face a frightening future like the one depicted in ‘Children of Men’!

I used the subject for one month and did notice a major change in all aspects. Stopping the use of the subject was voluntary and a major decline was noticed. I have had a heart attack but was never made aware of the risk of the subject. Thank you for the heads up.

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