The deficiency in men linked to four times higher risk of diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can be a 'devastating diagnosis' says expert

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Testosterone is a sex hormone found in both men and women. It has multiple functions, including regulating muscle mass and the production of red blood cells. Men naturally have much higher levels of testosterone in their bodies, however, a lack could put them at risk of certain serious medical issues.

Professor Geoffrey Hackett, senior medical advisor at Ted’s Health and consultant at Spire Hospital, spoke with to explain more.

He said: “Testosterone deficiency is more common than people may think, with up to 40 percent of men over 45 suffering from the condition.

“What is even less well-known is the link between testosterone deficiency and serious health conditions including type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, resulting in a greater risk of premature death in men.”

“Men with low testosterone are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, making it a potentially critical determinant of overall health.

“Testosterone deficiency causes increased body mass index, waist circumference and insulin resistance, therefore causing this increased risk.

“By appropriately treating testosterone deficiency with testosterone replacement therapy, prescribed by medical experts, there is potential to prevent progression to diabetes in prediabetes and reverse early-stage type 2 diabetes, which could help prevent premature death in men.”

Symptoms of testosterone deficiency to look out for in men include:

  • Loss of morning erections
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Brain fog
  • Weight gain
  • Lethargy.

Professor Hackett recommended getting your testosterone levels checked by a medically backed healthcare provider if you have concerns.

What the research says

A study, published in Diabetes Care in 2007, found men with low testosterone were four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

As part of the research, data on more than 1,400 men aged 20 and above was considered.

It said: “In multivariable models adjusted for age, race/ethnicity, and adiposity, men in the first tertile (lowest) of free testosterone level were four times more likely to have prevalent diabetes compared with men in the third tertile.

“Similarly, men in the first tertile of bioavailable testosterone also were approximately four times as likely to have prevalent diabetes compared with men in the third tertile.

“Low free and bioavailable testosterone concentrations in the normal range were associated with diabetes, independent of adiposity (obesity).

“These data suggest that low androgen (sex hormones that include testosterone) levels may be a risk factor for diabetes in men.”

A separate study from 2011, also published in Diabetes Care, trialled the use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in men with type 2 diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome.

“Over a six-month period, transdermal TRT was associated with beneficial effects on insulin resistance, total and low-density lipoprotein (‘bad’ cholesterol), lipoprotein a, and sexual health in hypogonadal men with type 2 diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome.”

What determines testosterone levels?

Professor Hackett said: “For men, the main determinant of testosterone levels is age, however lifestyle factors including exercise levels, obesity and smoking play a role.

“Average testosterone levels have been declining in the general population for decades, for reasons including increased obesity and exposure to environmental pollutants.

“It is important to note that men’s testosterone levels do naturally drop as they get older, it is only when testosterone levels reach a certain point that it will impact their health and be classified as testosterone deficiency.

“There are lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, that will help improve testosterone levels, however this alone is unlikely to make a significant impact in many cases.”

He added: “The link between low testosterone levels, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity are only established in men. ‘High’ testosterone in women is associated with possibly increased risk of diabetes.”

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