Low Testosterone - do you have it?
The VITL Nutrition Team
Our in-house nutritionist discusses low testosterone, including symptoms and causes.
Feeling a bit meh? If you go to your healthcare professional with symptoms of generally not feeling great, there is a decent chance they will look at certain things such as thyroid function, vitamin D levels and testosterone levels. It is estimated that about 40% of males over the age of 45 years old are testosterone deficient, which is high, considering testosterone levels are important for wellbeing and vitality. 1, 2
Testosterone is the best-known androgen (reproductive hormone) in males but females produce it too. It is produced in the testes and the ovaries for men and women respectively.
It plays an important role in many areas of health including blood flow, hair (and sebum) production, collagen formation, bone density maintenance and bone growth, cognition, memory and feelings, and it is in charge of sex drive. In males, it is also responsible for sperm production, penis growth, the prostate gland and erectile dysfunction. 3, 4
One thing that should be mentioned before we look at potential symptoms that occur with low testosterone is that it can be difficult to determine normal testosterone levels as this can be affected by a multitude of factors such as time of day, BMI, alcohol consumption, nutrition, medications, age and illness. 5 If you do have your testosterone levels tested, it may be good to test twice to confirm the result. A low result of serum testosterone combined with the below characteristics may be a sign of low testosterone, also known as hypogonadism. 6
What are the symptoms of low testosterone levels?
- Delayed puberty
- Erectile dysfunction
- Excess breast tissue
- Hair loss
- Increased body fat
- Issues with fertility
- Loss of muscle mass
- Low libido
- Low sperm count
- Poor bone health
- Stunted growth
- Sleep disturbances and fatigue
Important to note that the 3 most common symptoms of testosterone deficiency are ED (erectile dysfunction), loss of morning erections and low sexual desire.
What affects testosterone?
Vitamin D and zinc are crucial for the production of testosterone. In a study analysing vitamin D levels in over 2000 men, it was found that men with vitamin D levels above 30 nmol/L had more testosterone and lower levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds to hormones so your cells can’t use them, and if you have too much of it, your testosterone levels drop. Men with lower amounts of vitamin D also had lower levels of testosterone and SHBG. 7
Unfortunately, total testosterone levels decrease as we age at about 1-2% per year. This follows the similar concept of muscle mass, however with both, it will depend on lifestyle factors such as exercise routine and diet. 10
Fat is strongly associated with a decrease in testosterone levels, particularly in middle-aged men and older men. Research has been shown that the greater the fat loss, the more the testosterone levels increase. 11
Strength training can increase testosterone levels and can benefit long term testosterone by improving body composition and insulin resistance. 12 However, studies have suggested that prolonged endurance training or overtraining can be counter-productive. Allowing enough recovery time is paramount to reap the full benefits of exercise. 13
Have any questions regarding the above or want to see more male specific content? Get in touch with our nutritionists at: firstname.lastname@example.org who can help with any of your testosterone or male health queries!
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