By NBH, Ph.D., Diplomate of Anti-Aging Medicine,
Advanced Fellow of Anti-Aging, Regenerative & Functional Medicine
The number of middle-aged men with prescriptions for testosterone is climbing rapidly, raising concerns that increasing numbers of men are abusing the powerful hormone to boost their libidos and feel younger.
A story this month from Anahad O’Connor of the New York Times takes a close look at a boom in testosterone prescription. As mainstream medicine scrambles to get on the same page about this frontier, the rise of testosterone replacement therapy in middle-aged men is increasingly newsworthy. Unfortunately, O’Connor’s story is overly precautious and too often makes faulty assumptions.
O’Connor writes about “concerns that increasing numbers of men are abusing the powerful hormone to boost their libidos and feel younger.” He later adds that “the hormone helps build muscle, reduce body fat and improve sex drive.”
We question whether it is an abuse to boost your libido and to feel younger. We agree that testosterone helps build muscle, reduce body fat, and improve sex drive. What is wrong with this? At Natural Bio Health we have been treating men with testosterone for 14 years. Our clinics in Austin, San Antonio, Odessa, and College Station help men not only boost their libido and feel younger, but increase their strength, decrease their body fat, and restore their energy.
O’Connor frames replacement therapy as cosmetic and not necessary. We believe and have proven over 14 years that it is a critical pre-emptive strike for sustained physical and mental health of aging men everywhere.
O’Connor goes on to reference a study from the journal JAMA Internal Medicine that claims men are getting prescriptions for hormones without any evidence of a deficiency. He also writes:
“Some studies estimate that up to 30 percent of men ages 40 to 79 have a true deficiency, though only a small percentage actually develop clinical symptoms like depression, hot flashes and erectile dysfunction.”
We have tested men for more than 14 years and find this statement to be inaccurate unless you strictly limit the definition of a “true deficiency” to a ridiculously low level of total testosterone and to limited severe symptoms. Our lab tests clearly show that most men over the age of 30 have a testosterone deficiency in that they have both symptoms and they have blood levels in the low range for their age.
“The number of older and middle-aged men prescribed the hormone has tripled since 2001.”
Again, we see this as a good thing. As the therapy becomes more common and glowing testimonials spread, a rise in the number of men seeking this treatment is to be expected. The reason is that more and more men are realizing that they have an answer to their complaints and that they in fact suffer from low testosterone. Worldwide, male sperm count is down 50 percent. Toxins, phytoestrogens, our genetically modified and contaminated food supply, pesticides, and stress all contribute to this decline in male testosterone levels.
“The medical group that sets clinical guidelines for testosterone replacement therapy, the Endocrine Society, recommends treatment only in men who have unequivocally low testosterone levels.”
Yes, but that’s becoming most men. But note: This phrase “unequivocally low testosterone levels” is an arbitrary number that is used to define a medical condition named hypogonadism. It also ignores symptoms a man may have and focuses totally on this.
Ironically, this same medical group is on the record as recognizing a steady decline in testosterone within today’s male population. From A population-level decline in serum testosterone levels in American men, published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2007:
“. . . recent years have seen a substantial, and yet unrecognized, age-independent population-level decrease in Testosterone in American men”
If there’s one problem with testosterone replacement therapy that the article identifies, it’s that too many clinics are prescribing it without proper testing first. Natural Bio Health agrees with this statement and believes that prescribing hormone therapy without testing can be considered to be malpractice and is definitely not in the best interests of the client. Further, many clinics popping up around the country are prescribing testosterone after testing only total testosterone and PSA. They then give a testosterone injection the same day. They do not test any heart factors, blood counts, cholesterol, blood sugar, or any of the other hormones that can affect the health of patients.
“Testosterone therapy can cause thickening of the blood, acne and reduced sperm counts.”
Acne. Testosterone therapy can cause acne. We have seen this in our clinics, particularly for men who have early history of acne. This is generally a dose related problem. Reduce the dose and the acne generally clears. Other natural products can address the issues. Sometimes the testosterone is converting to dihyrotestosterone (DHT). This form of testosterone can mean acne. The conversion can be blocked by natural and prescription products.
Sperm Count. Testosterone can reduce sperm count. Most men do not care unless they are younger or plan on having more children. However, if you do care, this is also easily solved by adding diet to the program. There are also other methods to ensure sperm count is sustained.
Thickening of the blood. The red blood cells, hematocrit, and hemoglobin levels of your blood can increase when taking testosterone. The levels also increase with high altitude training as it increase the flow of oxygen to the lungs. This can result in what is called polycythemia which refers to any increase in red blood cells. We have not experienced any problems with this but always test these levels. If we feel they are too high, we recommend phlebotomy (donating blood) or lower levels of testosterone.
People who live in high altitudes tend to have red blood counts. Unfortunately, the medical community often mistakes polycythemia for erythrocytosis, which is a documented increase of red cell mass and is dangerous.
“Many providers worry that it also raises the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer, though some experts say that those concerns are unproved. Jacques Baillargeon, the lead author of the new research, said that the safety of long-term testosterone use had yet to be established in good studies.”
These risks are just not associated with the work that we do. In fact, testosterone replacement therapy has been shown scientifically to lower the risk of heart disease. In the medical field, much is technically “unproven.” But that doesn’t stop providers bound by medical boards to prescribe anti-depressants, diabetes medication, and the like. In terms of the long-term effects of testosterone use, I’m happy to chat with O’Connor and Baillargeon at length, show them my health charts, and lean on a rolodex of colleagues that have 20 years of testosterone therapy in their system. I have personally been taking testosterone for 14 years as has my wife. YES. Women also benefit from testosterone therapy.
Disclaimer: Much of the information in this blog is based on personal medical experience and no single scholarly journal is available to support the claims. Nevertheless, the sources are reputable and we believe that the information is factually accurate.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]