Research has shown that falling testosterone levels in men aren’t just related to age. Studies have linked being overweight or obese with large drops in testosterone, which leads to loss of muscle mass, brittle bones and erectile dysfunction. Doctors often prescribe hormone therapy to raise testosterone levels, but a new study suggests simply losing weight with diet and exercise is safer, more effective and costs much less.
Metabolic syndrome and testosterone
According to researchers at St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, nearly half of a group of overweight, middle-aged men with prediabetes were able to increase their testosterone levels in a weight loss program. Prediabetes—abnormally high blood sugar—is a symptom of metabolic syndrome that includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol and belly fat.
Many of the men with symptoms of metabolic syndrome in the St. Vincent’s study were able to increase their testosterone levels in one year. Another study from Germany using testosterone therapy reduced the incidence of metabolic syndrome in a study group, but required nearly five years of treatment to get results.
Diet and exercise vs. drugs
Dr. Frances Hayes, a professor at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, randomly assigned nearly 900 prediabetic men with low testosterone (levels below 300 nanograms per deciliter of blood) one of three treatments: the diabetes drug metformin, a placebo pill, or exercising for 150 minutes a week and eating less fat and calories.
When the study began, about 20 percent of the men assigned to diet and exercise had low testosterone levels. That number fell to 11 percent after one year. Low testosterone was only reduced one percent among the men with the condition taking metformin, the same as the placebo group.
Men in the diet and exercise group lost an average of about 17 pounds and testosterone levels in this group increased an average of 15 percent. Men in the metformin group lost about 6 pounds with no significant increase in testosterone.
Lose the love handles
The results of diet and exercise on testosterone levels are impressive compared with a study from the Institute of Urology & Andrology in Norderstedt-Hamburg, Germany. Researchers gave 261 metabolic syndrome patients with low testosterone and erectile dysfunction 1,000 milligrams of the testosterone drug undecanoate, on the first day of the study, at week six, and then every three months.
The prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the group dropped from 56 to 30 percent after 57 months of treatment—nearly five times longer than losing weight took in the Irish study.
Losing the love handles may be the best way for overweight men to improve their love life.