Estrogen is important in men, but too high of a level has all sorts of negative consequences – ranging from heart attacks to prostate cancer (32 & 33). The balance between testosterone and estrogen (or estradiol) is critical for a man. If the ratio is out and estrogen starts to dominate you run into all sorts of issues – such as breast cell growth, prostate enlargement and of course lower testosterone.
Sexual arousal - boosting testosterone can improve sexual arousal, even if you have normal testosterone levels. Higher levels of testosterone can make it easier for you to get aroused and can boost your sex drive generally. While this doesn’t affect the physical action of your erections, if you are not getting hard because you’re not aroused then boosting testosterone could help.
Travison, T. G., Vesper, H. W., Orwoll, E, Wu, F., Kaufman, J. M., Wang, Y., …Bhasin, S. (2017, April1). Harmonized reference ranges for circulating testosterone levels in men of four cohort studies in the United States and Europe. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 102(4), 1161–1173. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/102/4/1161/2884621
Testosterone functions within the brain. There are several lines of evidence for this: there are androgen receptors within the brain; testosterone is converted to both dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and estradiol by the actions of 5-α-reductase and aromatase respectively in the brain; steroid hormones promote neuronal cell growth and survival (Azad et al 2003). Testosterone enhances cerebral perfusion in hypogonadal men and that perfusion takes place specifically in Brodman areas 8 and 24, regions of the brain that are concerned with: strategic planning, higher motor action, cognitive behaviors, emotional behavior, generalized emotional reaction, wakefulness and memory (Greenlee 2000; Azad et al 2003). Studies of cognition demonstrate that older men with higher levels of free testosterone index (a surrogate measure of bioavailable testosterone) have better scores in tests of: visual memory, verbal memory, visuospatial functions and visuomotor scanning. Hypogonadal men have lower scores in tests of memory, visuospatial function, with a faster decline in visual memory (Moffat et al 2002). In a very small, short term placebo-controlled study hypogonadal men with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) treated with testosterone demonstrated a modest improvement in a cognition assessment score in AD (Tan and Pu 2003).
Attention, memory, and spatial ability are key cognitive functions affected by testosterone in humans. Preliminary evidence suggests that low testosterone levels may be a risk factor for cognitive decline and possibly for dementia of the Alzheimer's type, a key argument in life extension medicine for the use of testosterone in anti-aging therapies. Much of the literature, however, suggests a curvilinear or even quadratic relationship between spatial performance and circulating testosterone, where both hypo- and hypersecretion (deficient- and excessive-secretion) of circulating androgens have negative effects on cognition.
Common side effects from testosterone medication include acne, swelling, and breast enlargement in males. Serious side effects may include liver toxicity, heart disease, and behavioral changes. Women and children who are exposed may develop virilization. It is recommended that individuals with prostate cancer not use the medication. It can cause harm if used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
With the exception of increasing my fat and cholesterol intake, my diet wasn’t that unconventional. I didn’t follow a strictly low-carb or Paleo diet because recent research has suggested that a diet high in protein and low in carbs actually causes T levels to decrease. With that said, I was judicious with the carbs. I tried to get most of my carbs from veggies and fruit, but I didn’t freak out if my wife made us spaghetti for dinner.
One of the most important nutrients that can help boost testosterone levels is vitamin D3. In 2011, the results of a study published in the journal Hormone and Metabolic Research announced that vitamin D supplementation boosts testosterone naturally in overweight men by up to 30 percent. (12) This is pretty exciting because research has shown that vitamin D3 is also linked to helping to prevent and treat cancer! (13)
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Using steroids eventually trains your body to realize that it doesn’t have to produce as much testosterone to reach its equilibrium, so to reach the same highs you’ll need to take more steroids, and when you stop taking them, your body will need to readjust — you’ll be living with low testosterone for a while (and you’ll need to see a doctor if your body doesn’t readjust on its own). Forcing your body to stay above your natural testosterone, even if you’re naturally low, can create this kind of dependency which ultimately decreases the amount of testosterone your body will produce on its own.
Trials of testosterone treatment in men with type 2 diabetes have also taken place. A recent randomized controlled crossover trial assessed the effects of intramuscular testosterone replacement to achieve levels within the physiological range, compared with placebo injections in 24 men with diabetes, hypogonadism and a mean age of 64 years (Kapoor et al 2006). Ten of these men were insulin treated. Testosterone treatment led to a significant reduction in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) and fasting glucose compared to placebo. Testosterone also produced a significant reduction in insulin resistance, measured by the homeostatic model assessment (HOMA), in the fourteen non-insulin treated patients. It is not possible to measure insulin resistance in patients treated with insulin but five out of ten of these patients had a reduction of insulin dose during the study. Other significant changes during testosterone treatment in this trial were reduced total cholesterol, waist circumference and waist-hip ratio. Similarly, a placebo-controlled but non-blinded trial in 24 men with visceral obesity, diabetes, hypogonadism and mean age 57 years found that three months of oral testosterone treatment led to significant reductions in HbA1C, fasting glucose, post-prandial glucose, weight, fat mass and waist-hip ratio (Boyanov et al 2003). In contrast, an uncontrolled study of 150 mg intramuscular testosterone given to 10 patients, average age 64 years, with diabetes and hypogonadism found no significant change in diabetes control, fasting glucose or insulin levels (Corrales et al 2004). Another uncontrolled study showed no beneficial effect of testosterone treatment on insulin resistance, measured by HOMA and ‘minimal model’ of area under acute insulin response curves, in 11 patients with type 2 diabetes aged between 33 and 73 years (Lee et al 2005). Body mass index was within the normal range in this population and there was no change in waist-hip ratio or weight during testosterone treatment. Baseline testosterone levels were in the low-normal range and patients received a relatively small dose of 100 mg intramuscular testosterone every three weeks. A good increase in testosterone levels during the trial is described but it is not stated at which time during the three week cycle the testosterone levels were tested, so the lack of response could reflect an insufficient overall testosterone dose in the trial period.
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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?'"