Statins May Lower Testosterone, Libido
Men With Erectile Dysfunction on Statin Therapy Are Twice as Likely to Have Low Testosterone, Study Finds
April 16, 2010 -- Statin therapy prescribed to lower cholesterol also
appears to lower testosterone, according to a new study that evaluated nearly
3,500 men who had erectile dysfunction or ED.
''Current statin therapy is associated with a twofold increased prevalence
of hypogonadism," a condition in which men don't produce enough testosterone,
study author Giovanni Corona, MD, PHD, a researcher at the University of
Florence in Italy, tells WebMD.
Although previous studies have produced mixed findings on the possible link
between taking cholesterol-lowering drugs and a drop in testosterone, most
involved a limited number of patients, with few studies including more than 50
people, Corona says.
"Our study is the first report showing a negative association between statin
therapy and testosterone levels in a large series of patients consulting for
sexual dysfunction," he says.
About one of six adults in the U.S. has high cholesterol, according to the
CDC. The number of people buying a statin (such as Lipitor or Zocor) rose 88%
from 2000 to 2005, from 15.8 million people to 29.7 million, according to the
federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Statins, Testosterone, and ED: The Study
Corona and colleagues evaluated 3,484 men, average age 51, who visited an
outpatient clinic at the University of Florence with complaints of sexual
dysfunction between January 2002 and August 2009.
Of that total, 244, or 7%, were being treated with statins for their high
cholesterol. Most often the statin was simvastatin (Zocor) or atorvastatin
The researchers calculated the men's total testosterone as well as free
testosterone, the amount of unbound testosterone in the bloodstream.
When they compared men on statins to those not, the men on statins were
twice as likely to have low testosterone, regardless of which of three commonly
used thresholds for low testosterone they looked at.
The researchers emphasize they have found a link, not a cause and effect,
between statins and lower testosterone. They can't explain the link with
One possibility, Corona says, is that low testosterone levels and the need
for statin treatment share some common causes.
Some researchers also have looked at the possibility that the statins'
inhibition of cholesterol synthesis may interfere with the production of
testosterone, which depends on a supply of cholesterol. The statins may disrupt
the body's feedback mechanism to instruct it to make more testosterone.