Tribulus terrestris is an ingredient commonly presented as improving testosterone levels, but has not been found to be more effective than a placebo or possess any testosterone increasing properties. WebMD cautions that it interferes with Lithium and diabetes medications, and in general, not enough is known about tribulus terrestris to recommend a dosage for anyone.
Bhatia et al (2006) studied 70 male patients with type2 diabetes mellitus (age range 24–78 years). Thirty-seven subjects were found to have hypogonadism based on a calculated free testosterone level of less than 6.5 μg/dl. The hypogonadal group had a statistically significant lower hematocrit. Anemia was observed in 23% of the patients (16 out of 70). In 14 of 15 anemic patients calculated free testosterone was low.
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).
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A blood test is the only way to diagnose a low testosterone level or a reduction in the bioavailability of testosterone. Some men have a lower than normal testosterone level without signs or symptoms. For most men, no treatment is needed. But for some others, very low testosterone levels lead to a condition in which bones become weak and brittle (osteoporosis). For others, low testosterone might cause changes in sexual function, sleep patterns, emotions and the body.
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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.
Osteoporosis refers to pathological loss of bone density and strength. It is an important condition due to its prevalence and association with bone fractures; most commonly of the hip, vertebra and forearm. Men are relatively protected from the development of osteoporosis by a higher peak bone mass compared with women (Campion and Maricic 2003). Furthermore, women lose bone at an accelerated rate immediately following the menopause. Nevertheless, men start to lose bone mass during early adult life and experience an increase in the rate of bone loss with age (Scopacasa et al 2002). Women of a given age have a higher prevalence of osteoporosis in comparison to men but the prevalence increases with age in both sexes. As a result, men have a lower incidence of osteoporotic fractures than women of a given age but the gap between the sexes narrows with advancing age (Chang et al 2004) and there is evidence that hip fractures in men are associated with greater mortality than in women (Campion and Maricic 2003).