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Updated: March 14, 2022 @ 12:04 am
According to television commercials and social media, the benefits of testosterone boosting supplements are plentiful for aging men. However, medical experts don’t recommend over-the-counter supplementation for various reasons.
“Testosterone is a hormone synthesized from cholesterol in the testicles in men, and in small amounts by the adrenal glands in both sexes and in the ovaries of women,” said Dr. Stephanie Harris, a urologist with Baylor Scott and White at AdventHealth-Central Texas in Killeen.
While testosterone is present in both men’s and women’s bodies, it plays an especially significant role in the development of men.
“During fetal development, testosterone promotes the development of male genitalia,” Harris said. “During puberty, a boy’s testosterone surge is important for the changes seen at that time: growth of pubic hair, enlargement of the genitalia, general growth in stature and deepening of the voice.”
Testosterone also continues to be necessary for healthy adult men later in life.
“Testosterone helps maintain libido, normal erectile function, promotes the male hair pattern, for example beard growth and chest hair, contributes to maintaining muscle mass and bone mineral density and is needed to maintain adequate levels of sperm production,” Harris said.
Low testosterone, a condition also known as hypogonadism, is a medical disorder that should be diagnosed by a professional.
According to the National Library of Medicine, the prevalence of hypogonadism has increased in recent years. Statistics show that 12% of men over 50, 19% of men over 60 and 28% of men over 70 fit the criteria of hypogonadism.
However, the condition can also affect younger men.
Symptoms of low testosterone may include low sex drive, tiredness, irritability, erectile dysfunction and depression.
“Many of these symptoms are non-specific and shared with other medical conditions,” Harris said. “It is important that men with concern for hypogonadism or low testosterone be seen by someone who specializes in the condition, as certain treatments can have unintended consequences.”
An over-the-counter testosterone booster may not be the right choice since new research suggests the supplements have little to no beneficial effect.
However, there are treatments that can improve the condition in cooperation with a medical expert.
“Options for testosterone replacement include testosterone injections, gels, patches and an oral capsule,” Harris said. “In men with fertility concerns, hCG and clomiphene citrate are often used. The choice of therapy depends on patient’s preference for modality, cost and insurance coverage.”
Determining testosterone levels helps to diagnose hypogonadism. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), testosterone levels of 300 ng/dL and below determine whether a man can be diagnosed with hypogonadism.
“Hypogonadism is treated when there are a combination of symptoms and levels under 300 ng/dL,” Harris said.
The FDA also cautions about using testosterone products for low testosterone due to aging because of a possible increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Harris recommends seeing a medical expert for a proper diagnosis and professional treatment if low testosterone levels are suspected.
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