If you’ve ever watched a few hours of TV and managed to stick through the commercials without running to the kitchen for a sandwich, you’ve probably seen the mini infomercial dealing with a male condition known as Low T, or low testosterone.
Although this steroid hormone is found in most mammals, reptiles and even birds, it is most prominent in males and acts as the principal male sex hormone. Testosterone plays a strong role in the development of the testis and the prostate, and it also promotes secondary characteristics like muscle mass, bone mass and even body hair.
As we’re learning more about testosterone, we also see that lower levels of this hormone can cause a condition known as Low T, also known as hypogonadism. This condition comes with a myriad of problems, including:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low sperm count
- Potential hair loss
- Mood changes
- Weaker bones (less bone mass)
- Muscle loss
- And possible weight gain
The Link between Low Testosterone and Weight Gain
Although one may think that testosterone is something that has been thoroughly researched, its overall affects on males has not been researched often at all. Most research dealing with males and testosterone has been conducted to explore the reproductive and sexual side of life, while ignoring any potential changes to other areas of the body.
However, modern day research is beginning to show a common link between body weight and low testosterone levels.
But before overweight men run out and start supplementing their testosterone levels, it is important to note that this is not necessarily a 1:1 link. Having low testosterone does not automatically mean that you will experience weight gain, and experiencing weight gain does not necessarily mean that your testosterone levels are low.
In a study conducted in 2006, 2,100 men over the age of 45 were tested, and of those men, the ones considered to be obese were over two-times as likely to have low testosterone compared to those with a healthy weight.
The study also concluded that BMI (body mass index) can increase with low testosterone and decrease with the proper levels of testosterone.
Further research suggests that this link is indeed accurate. A separate study found that low testosterone—hypogonadism—may be linked to metabolic syndrome – a condition in which abdominal body fat increases. Metabolic syndrome not only increases body fat, but people with this affliction are also at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Cause and Effect Relationship
Like most conditions involving body weight, nothing is as simple as it seems. While there is strong evidence to suggest that low testosterone levels can cause weight gain, there is also evidence to suggest that excess weight gain actually causes lower testosterone levels. This results, of course, in a cycle – more weight, lower testosterone, even more weight.
Obesity thus becomes exponentially tougher to fight in middle-aged men, as their excess weight and lower testosterone levels make gaining even more weight highly likely.
For many men, losing weight may actually help to raise testosterone levels. Once the levels begin to normalize, weight-loss should become easier.
Obesity Research recently published a study of two groups of middle-aged obese men. The first group went through a lifestyle-changing weight-loss program and lost an average of 45 pounds. The second group stayed at the same weight. In the group that lost weight, there was a significant spike in testosterone levels.
In simple terms, low testosterone may be responsible for weight gain, but weight gain may be responsible for low testosterone. It’s really a classic “chicken or the egg?” argument.
For men with lower levels of testosterone, replacing the testosterone is advisable. And for men who are overweight, whether they have low testosterone levels or not, healthy diet and exercise is always the smart way to go.
With the right diet and enough physical activity, most men will find that they do not need some miracle drug advertised on TV or even any testosterone replacement. Simply eating and living right is often enough.