Testosterone – or T – is often called “the male hormone.” It’s the surge in T that triggers a boy’s transformation into a man. Puberty brings changes to muscles, body hair, voice, and – ahem – package size that signal manhood.
Most men are familiar with these changes. We’ve gone through them, so know what they are and what they mean.
But T brings less familiar changes, too. Changes linked to aging. And the results can be just as dramatic as the transformation from boy to man. But these changes aren’t as well known… or understood.
Here are 5 little known secrets about this hormone every man needs to know…
Secret #1 – Your Body Can’t Access Most of Your Testosterone
Special cells in your testes – called Leydig cells – make 95% of the T in your body. The vast majority of this T binds to a molecule called “sex hormone-binding globulin” – or SHBG for short.
Most of the rest binds to a compound called albumin. And a small amount circulates in your body as “Free” testosterone.
Free T is readily available for use. It’s not linked to another molecule, so your body can put it to work wherever and whenever it’s needed.
The bond with albumin is fairly strong, but your body can still make use of T that’s bound to albumin. Together, Free and albumin-bound T make up your bio-available supply of this key hormone.
The bond between T and SHBG is very strong. So it isn’t easy for your body to use T that’s linked to SHBG. This T – most of your body’s supply – isn’t really bio-available.
So, when considering your T levels, your level of Free T is the most important. This is the amount of T readily available for use.
Secret #2 – Your T Levels Start Dropping Early… and Keep on Dropping
Most men see their highest T levels in their late teens. As you enter your 20s, your levels begin to drop steadily. For instance, Mayo Clinic experts estimate your Free T may be 25% lower at 50 than at age 25.
A 2002 study found also bio-available T drops – on average – by 2% per year from age 40 to age 70. 2% times 30 years is a drop of 60%… and that’s on top of the drop between 19 and 40.
What’s happening to your T as you age? It appears that more and more binds to SHBG as you get older. So less and less is available to support your masculine traits.
The bottom line here? Your “manly” traits can disappear quickly. You need ways to help keep your masculinity alive.
Secret #3 – Body Fat Makes a Huge Difference in T Levels
Way back in 1991, a team at the New England Research Institute looked at the effect of body fat on T levels. The results were shocking.
Obese men consistently showed T levels 10% – 15% lower than those of non-obese men. Regardless of age. Excess body fat appears to speed up the effects of age on T.
A 2007 study backed up these results. This study of 1,667 men – from 40 to 70 – linked weight gain to lower T levels.
In fact, gaining about 9 – 11 pounds lowered T levels as much as aging10 years!
Secret #4 – Low T Is Linked to High Blood Sugar
Since low T is linked to body fat, maybe you’re not surprised it’s also linked to blood sugar levels. After all, blood sugar, diabetes, and body fat are all related.
And that’s pretty much what researchers in Australia found in 2008. They discovered insulin resistance – a common result of high blood sugar levels – was often linked to lower T levels.
In this study of 580 men, 43% with type II diabetes had low total T. And 57% had low Free T – the most available form.
Secret #5 – Low T May Erode Your Mind and Memory
Scientists at Harvard University now have evidence low T may affect your mind and memory. The Harvard team identified six studies that show a link between higher T levels and better mental function.
Studies found higher levels of bio-available T were linked to better performance on mental and memory tests. One study even linked lower T levels to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Fortunately, you don’t have to sit back and wait for your T levels to change.
Simple Steps That Could Make All the Difference
A few simple – and inexpensive – steps can help fend off low T.
First, keep your blood sugar down.
Mediterranean-style diets and the so-called “DASH” diet are good choices. These eating plans focus on foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. They typically include lean protein, nuts, and mono-unsaturated fats, such as olive oil.
Cutting out starches and simple sugars can help even out your blood sugar levels, too. Swap out a serving of potatoes or pasta for a serving of leafy greens or other vegetables. Get plenty of fiber – to take advantage of how it slows absorption of sugars.
Next, drop a few pounds. Fat cells convert T to estrogens. So getting rid of fat helps preserve your precious stores of T.
Finally, stay active, and get adequate protein. These steps help preserve lean muscle – a key to maintaining your male health.
Age isn’t your friend when it comes to holding on to your masculinity. But you’re not helpless. Taking a few easy steps can help stay more virile longer. And get a whole lot more out of all your years.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
“Test ID: TTFB – Testosterone, Total, Bioavailable, and Free, Serum,” Mayo Clinic Laboratories.
Feldman, H.A., et al, “Age trends in the level of serum testosterone and other hormones in middle-aged men: longitudinal results from the Massachusetts male aging study,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Feb 2002; 87(2): 589-598.
Gray, A., et al, “Age, disease, and changing sex hormone levels in middle-aged men: results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Nov 1991; 73(5): 1016-1025.
Travison, t.G., et al, “The relative contributions of aging, health, and lifestyle factors to serum testosterone decline in men,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Feb 2007; 92(2): 549-555.
Grossman, M., et al, “Low testosterone levels are common and associated with insulin resistance in men with diabetes,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. May 2008; 93(5): 1834-1840.
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