Bharat Sharma, a 55-year-old IT professional, who’s also a testosterone user, says TRT shots relieved him of a dysphoric mood-unease, anxiety, misery-that first took up shop in his cranium during his teen years.
He says his testosterone turnaround gave him the energy to attack his job and responsibilities with renewed drive. “My cognitive abilities have never been better,” he says. His focus has improved too. The pharmaceutical companies have not yet produced evidence that testosterone can help a guy dig that funky groove, but the oddness of the observation has an authentic ring. It makes you wonder if some sort of fountain of youth can be trapped in male hormones.
It’s praise echoed by a man we’ll call Sameer, a 43-year-old scientist who went on testosterone shots three years ago when blood work revealed that he had low levels of something called sex hormone binding globulin, or SHBG. For Sameer, it was lifestyle-related; he spread 98 kgs over a 6-foot frame, ate poorly, and found time to stress but not to exercise and the SHBG deficiency was causing his body to burn through its available testosterone way too quickly. At the time, all he knew was that he couldn’t get himself out of bed on most mornings.
“I had become a father but realised I wasn’t being a good father,” he says. “I would sleep in. I didn’t have the energy to read a story to my children at night, and it caused a lot of tension in my marriage.” Today, Sameer rides a bike and has more lean muscle, and his weight is under control. He says testosterone gave him the energy to do all that.
Those are the guys the testosterone industry wants you to hear from. But there are other guys too.
“I get a testosterone shot in the ass every week,” says my childhood buddy Andy, 51, a marketing specialist. Andy couldn’t tell you the exact blood level that triggered his decision. A single man, he’s never had libido problems, and as for his physical condition, he trains at a place where professionals tune up. He thinks TRT has helped his body composition, but he isn’t sure.
Combine the serious users with the guys doing it on a lark, and then throw in all the dudes who quit taking testosterone after a month (19 per cent, according to one study), and you’re talking about millions of buyers of male hormones.
The questions are many. Are we encouraging people to take hormones we don’t know they need, for a disease they don’t have? What about the therapeutic options, or the latest drug therapies available? What about those who feel less manly and the basic middle-aged wish to re-experience the sort of boner before breakfast that makes it hard to pee in a downward trajectory? (A hallmark of low testosterone is less morning wood.) But the phenomenon just may be wishful thinking on a massive and expensive scale.
Testosterone replacement therapy is currently approved only for the treatment of male hypogonadism, or lack of testosterone, caused specifically by a problem with the testicles or with certain parts of the brain – the pituitary gland and hypothalamus that control the gonads. You might inherit such a state, or it could be caused by injury or such conditions as a brain tumor or an undescended testicle. Men with these types of hypogonadism have extremely low blood testosterone and symptoms like enlarged breasts, hairlessness, loss of muscle mass, low libido, and bones that break easily.
According to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine, however, a quarter of men who supplement with testosterone never even bother having a blood test, and only half have been diagnosed with hypogonadism. In 2010, in an attempt to differentiate what was becoming known as “late onset hypogonadism” from normal, age-related T decline, researchers analysed data from the European Male Ageing Study, which followed more than 3,000 men, ages 40 to 79 in eight countries. They found that out of 32 symptoms often mentioned in the same breath as “low T,” only three, a decrease in sexual thoughts, fewer morning erections, and erectile dysfunction were associated with low levels of the hormone.
“Low” was defined by the researchers as a total testosterone blood level of 320 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl) or less and a free testosterone of 220 picomoles per litre or less. Anything more nebulous, in other words, and you’re just turning to TRT because life is getting weird on you. Hell, some experts argue that even having these symptoms and coming in at or under these levels doesn’t justify the drug. That matters, because as a number of recent studies have suggested, taking testosterone may double or even triple your risk of heart disease.
So here’s the bad news: Increasing your testosterone can thicken your blood and lower your good HDL cholesterol, both of which hike your odds of heart disease. Researchers first began to learn of testosterone’s link to cardiovascular risk between 2005 and 2009, when a team in Boston set out to determine if frail older men became more mobile after having their man juice jacked up.
Their study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, noted that the added testosterone made the men stronger on the leg press and chest press and climbing stairs. However, the trial was halted because 23 of the 106 men taking it developed cardiovascular problems, versus only five of the 103 men who’d been using a placebo gel.
Men’s Health India