Obesity and Low Testosterone Levels

My Bariatric Life Health Guide July 06, 2013
  • Obesity and Low Testosterone Levels

     

    Photo by Rosemary Ratcliff

     

    In a study conducted by the University at Buffalo endocrinologists, researchers discovered that about 40% of obese participants had lower-than-normal testosterone levels. The percentage escalated to 50% among men who also had diabetes. It also was found that as body mass increase levels rose, testosterone levels dropped. Given the fact that about one-third of the United States’ population is obese, this news is concerning for men.

     

    Effects of Low Testosterone

     

    A decrease in testosterone levels is a normal part of the aging process for men. For every year beyond age thirty, male testosterone levels decrease by about one percent. Currently, over thirteen million men have low testosterone levels.

     

    Low testosterone levels can affect sexual functioning including a reduced desire for sex, fewer spontaneous erections, and infertility. The ADA maintains that 70% of men with low testosterone levels have erectile dysfunction, and 63% have experienced a decrease in sex drive. One study showed that men who lose significant amounts of weight reported having better sexual functioning.  

     

    Physical changes may also present such as increases body fat, decreased strength and muscle mass, fragile bones, decreased body hair, hot flashes, and increased fatigue.

     

    Low testosterone levels can also cause sleep disturbances such as insomnia and emotional changes such as sadness or depression.

     

    Age is Not Always the Deciding Factor

     

    As previously note, testosterone levels naturally decrease in men as they grow older, but obesity seems to be an important factor for decreased testosterone levels regardless of a person’s age.

     

    A study that was published in the 2012 journal Clinical Endocrinology found that obese teenage boys were not only at greater risk for diabetes and heart disease but also had testosterone levels that were between forty and fifty percent lower than their normal weight peers.

     

    Controlling for age, physical maturity, and medical factors, 25 obese males and twenty-five normal weight males between the ages of fourteen and twenty were blood tested to measure total and free testosterone levels. Free testosterone is testosterone that is not chemically bound and thereby available to the body.

     

    Mean testosterone levels were found to be 50% lower in the obese young men and mean free testosterone levels were found to be 46% lower.  

     

    Further Implications

     

    A new study done on mice has demonstrated that low testosterone and obesity not only contribute to diabetes but also can damage the brain.

     

    The mice were divided into three groups with each group placed on a high-fat diet. One group had normal testosterone levels, a second group had low testosterone levels, and a third group was castrated but received testosterone treatment via capsules planted beneath their skin.

     

    The mice on the high fat diet grew obese and were found to have signs of diabetes such as high blood glucose and poor glucose tolerance. Following blood tests and analysis of brain and brain tissues, the obese mice displayed brain inflammation and were less capable of supporting nerve cell growth. The mice that had been fed a normal diet showed none of these changes.

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    References:

    Healthline - http://www.healthline.com/health/side-effects-of-low-testosterone

    Science Daily - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100503135659.htm

    The Chart - http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/10/12/alarming-low-testosterone-levels-found-in-obese-teenage-boys/