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Vitamin T for Sex

Hot, hot hormones.

Increases Body Mass, Not Sex Drive continued...

So a 50% decline in some guy's testosterone level as he ages from a 20-something to a 50-something is unlikely to have much impact on his physiology and behavior. And therefore using something like AndroGel to boost his levels from 50% to 100% won't likely have much of an impact, either.

Stress Inhibits Testosterone, But Does It Matter?Similarly, low testosterone secretion induced by stress is no reason to take supplemental testosterone, either. All sorts of stressors, whether physical or psychological, can inhibit the secretion of all the hormones involved in the complex release of testosterone. Anesthetize someone for surgery, slice into his belly with a scalpel, and testosterone levels begin to decline. The same thing will happen for a male primate who has just been toppled from a high rank in the group hierarchy. Ditto for a man going through a stressful cognitive task like a final exam. Or -- an example that I get an odd pleasure out of citing -- a study in the May 1972 Archives of General Psychiatry found that men in the early, highly stressful period of officer's training in the military have suppressed testosterone levels, too.

So this decline under stress appears to be a well-established phenomenon. But the bottom line is, what are the consequences of this decline in testosterone levels during stress? A loss of sexual drive or performance? Decreased aggressiveness? Decreased muscle metabolism?

None of the above, almost certainly. The declines in testosterone levels during stress, even with severe, chronic stress, just aren't dramatic enough to produce such adverse consequences.

So, men shouldn't worry much about the consequences of yet another traffic jam or deadline on their testosterone. The problem isn't that testosterone levels go down during stress. It's that erect penises do. But that's another subject . . . for another story.

Robert Sapolsky is professor of biological sciences at Stanford University, and of neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He is the author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases.

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