Andropause, or the collective group of symptoms resulting from age related decline in testosterone in men, contributes to many diseases. Decreasing testosterone levels fosters diabetes and metabolic syndrome, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease including myocardial infarction, loss of muscle mass and an increase in body fat with weakness, osteoporosis and chronic inflammation. Yes, testosterone is PROTECTIVE against these chronic diseases of aging and when levels fall with age, the protective effect lessens and disease states become more pronounced! An article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism has documented that “…recent years have seen a substantial and yet unrecognized age-dependent, population-level decrease in Testosterone in American men”. Testosterone declines with age beginning in the early thirties. By age 40 levels naturally decline by 1% per year. Testosterone declines are due to increasing SexHormone Binding Globulin, which binds the hormone And renders it ineffective, decreasing LH, a hormone which stimulates the testes to secrete testosterone and decreasing Leydig cell activity. These cells actually produce testosterone in the testes. During the age span of 25 to 75 years of age, there is generally a 30% decrease in total testosterone and a 50% decrease in bioavailable testosterone. This is important. Most physicians will only measure total testosterone, which is an inaccurate estimation of your bioavailable or free testosterone (the testosterone that actually exerts its effects). In order to assess your levels, you must measure free or bioavailable testosterone! Half of healthy men between the ages of 50 and 70 years will have a bioavailable testosterone below the lowest levels seen in healthy men who are 20-40 years of age.
Other factors contributing to testosterone decline include insulin resistance, stress levels and concomitant cortisol demand and toxin exposure. This letter is seen in many younger individuals as a cause of early testosterone decline.
In 1992, the US Government released the Food Pyramid. These guidelines made recommendations for nutrient adequacy and moderation of specific food types. There are problems with the pyramid. The breads and cereals group is too broad. This accelerates insulin resistance significantly. Another problem is that Fats are listed as “use sparingly”. Yet unsaturated fats from a natural source can actually aid in weight loss, reduce heart disease risk, lower blood sugar and even lower cholesterol. Fats help keep the blood sugar stable and enhance brain function. Yet dietary recommendations for Americans still increase carbohydrate intake and decrease fat consumption. This has led to an epidemic of type two diabetes and obesity with concomitant increases in heart disease. It is this scenario which also contributes to testosterone decline in men.
Insulin and insulin resistance are increased by high carbohydrate diets, stress, insomnia, hypothyroidism and lack of exercise. Elevated insulin levels can decrease the synthesis of DHEA, the precursor to the other sex hormones. Nutrition will ALWAYS be a factor in hormone synthesis and regulation. Tomorrow we conclude our discussion of the male sex hormones. Stay tuned!