Does Testosterone Aid Aging Men?
Study: Healthy Older Men Get Little From Oral Testosterone Supplements
Jan. 2, 2008 -- Oral testosterone supplements made healthy older
men a little leaner, but they did not get stronger and their mental function
did not improve, Dutch researchers find.
Men's testosterone levels drop as they age. Declining testosterone is linked
to loss of muscle mass, loss of muscle strength, gain of abdominal fat,
cognitive decline, and bone loss. Some men have much more of a testosterone
decline than others do, but it's not yet clear when a man might benefit from
To help answer these questions, Utrecht Medical Center researcher Marielle
H. Emmelot-Vonk, MD, and colleagues gave testosterone supplements -- or
inactive placebo -- to 237 healthy 60- to 80-year-old men. All of the men had
low or low-normal testosterone levels.
"We saw some good results -- men's muscle mass increased and their fat
mass decreased -- but this was not accompanied by increased muscle strength, so
this was a bit disappointing," Emmelot-Vonk tells WebMD.
The downside was that men who took the oral testosterone supplements had
cholesterol -- the good kind of cholesterol. This made them slightly more likely to
develop metabolic syndrome, a set of metabolic measures that
for diabetes and heart
Moreover, supplements did not improve cognitive function, increase bone
mineral density, or increase overall quality of life over the course of the
Oral Testosterone 'Not the Best'
One reason for these "disappointing" results is that oral
testosterone supplements may not work as well as supplements such as gels,
patches, or injections that provide more stable hormone levels.
"We now think the oral supplement was not the best method of
testosterone supplementation to use," Emmelot-Vonk says. "This is
because the level of testosterone was hot high enough for the entire 24-hour
period. So maybe it would be better to use a form of testosterone that gives
better levels for 24 hours, such as patches or injections."
Some doctors worry that testosterone supplements may promote prostate cancer. But the Dutch
study showed no evidence of prostate abnormality in the six-month study.
Urologist Robert Davis of the University of Rochester, N.Y. offers
testosterone supplements to men with low testosterone who complain of symptoms such as erectile
dysfunction or low energy. He notes that oral testosterone supplements are
not used in the U.S.
Davis says studies may one day show that testosterone supplements can help
men without symptoms. But that remains to be demonstrated, he notes.
The Emmelot-Vonk study appears in the Jan. 2 issue of The Journal of the
American Medical Association.