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 (Lipitor).
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 certainty.
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.