Written by Oliver Greenwood: BSc(Hons) Applied Sport & Exercise Science.
This article is going to investigate two key themes which are androstenedione and testosterone. This article will compare the two themes to see which is the most effective hormone.
We shall cover the following points:
- What is androstenedione?
- What is testosterone?
What is Androstenedione?
Androstenedione is a hormone but has been recently been described as a ‘pro-hormone’ as the hormone has little effect itself (You and your hormones, 2017). This is because different parts of the body are able to convert this hormone into testosterone and oestrogen (You and your hormones, 2017).
Androstenedione is controlled through the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Androstenedione secretes through a number of different glands, and it is normally a rapid conversion to other hormones.
Androstenedione secretion usually occurs in the testes, ovaries and adrenal cortex. However, it is unclear precisely how the adrenocorticotropic hormone and other hormones control the adrenal gland’s production of androstenedione (You and your hormones, 2017).
Too much androstenedione in men, will likely lead to an imbalance of testosterone and oestrogen.
This may lead to the testes becoming smaller and changes to breast developments. In women there will be an increase in body and facial health growth. Furthermore, periods may stop, acne may become worse and even changes to genitalia my occur (You and your hormones, 2017).
Too little androstenedione can cause boys to under develop sexual characteristics associated with puberty.
This includes body and pubic hair growth, sexual organ growth and deepening of the voice (You and your hormones, 2017). Additionally, if a male foetus has too little androstenedione they may be born with abnormal genitalia.
Likewise, girls might fail to begin their periods and may not undergo changes usually seen in puberty.
Benefits and side effects of androstenedione
Androstenedione has often been abused by body builders in an effort to help bulk up muscle mass.
Furthermore, it has been stated that the hormone can increase energy, keep red blood cells healthy, enhance recovery, increase muscle growth and increase sexual desire.
However, it has been reported that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that this is the case (You and your hormones, 2017).
A clincial trial published in the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology found that it didn't have any anaobolic effects in regards to resistance exercise. (Ballantyne et al., 2000)
On the other hand, the side effects of this hormone have shown that increasing its intake may make it unsafe. One side effect of the hormone is it can cause depression.
This is because it has been reported that high levels of androstenedione have been related to depression. So, taking an androstenedione supplement will put you at an increased risk of depression.
Liver disease is another concern of ingesting a high dosage of androstenedione. However, no evidence has been reported on this, although, other steroids closely connected to androstenedione have reported to cause liver damage.
This shows that if the wrong dosage of this drug is taken it could of detrimental effects.
What is Testosterone?
Classically, testosterone is a hormone typically associated with one’s masculinity (Patel et al., 2019).
Testosterone is a pleiotropic hormone (Patel et al., 2019), which means the hormone has multiple functions such as modifying human behaviours (Neolife, 2018) various physiological roles and has even been shown to have the capacity to improve some symptoms of depression (Neolife, 2018).
With testosterone being commonly known for its actions on muscle growth, it comes as no surprise that low levels of testosterone are linked to a loss of muscle mass (Kelly and Jones, 2015).
This shows that there is a possibility that increasing muscle mass through exercises, such as weightlifting, could be beneficial towards increasing testosterone in the body (Kelly and Jones 2015).
However, testosterone deficiency is highly common among men impairing many day-to-day bodily functions for instance insulin resistance (Kelly and Jones, 2013). This can cause a decrease in the stimulation of glucose transport along with decreasing insulins glucoses storage (Kahn and Flier, 2000).
It has also been reported that testosterone deficiency is directly related to cardiovascular disease risk factors (Kelly and Jones, 2013).
The points made above will be the key areas of discussion throughout this article. Furthermore, it will be discussed the role ageing plays on testosterone levels, along with, what are the best exercises to produce optimal testosterone levels within the body.
Benefits of testosterone
As reported above lower levels of testosterone can cause many unwanted complications within the body.
One major benefit of higher testosterone levels is its ability to be able to fight depression. Worldwide there is an issue regarding mental health.
With depression alone affecting more than 120 million people (Lepine and Bridley, 2011). Within this around 25% of the UK’s adult residents are suffering from Mental Health Issues (MHI) (Parker and Bailey, 2018).
Research conducted by Almeida et al., (2008) reported on 203 men who completed a self-report questionnaire and a 15-item geriatric depression scale. Participants then consumed the testosterone concentration (ranged between 20 to 1602 ng/dL).
The results showed there to be a negative relationship between testosterone levels and depressive symptoms. However, this was only a weak correlation (p= -0.07) meaning more research should be conducted within this area.
Another benefit testosterone brings to the table is its skill decrease body fat (Traish, Saad, Guay, 2009). This is because testosterone plays a vital part in the regulation of insulin, glucose and fat metabolism.
As one’s testosterone levels decrease the body’s capability to regulate insulin decreases (Kahn and Flier, 2000). This in turn causes a decreased rate of glucose transport along with insulins glucoses storage decreasing (Kahn and Flier, 2000), resulting in adipose tissue to begin accumulating.
The accumulation of the adipose tissue contributes to further negative actions of decreased testosterone levels (Traish, Saad, Guay, 2009).
In a study conducted by Kalinchenko et al., (2010) 184 men had their body composition evaluated after 30 weeks after ingesting 1000mg of testosterone. The results of this testing showed an average weight loss of 4.3kg. This is also supported by a study from Svartberg et al., (2008) who found a 5.4kg reduction of fat body mass in men with testosterone levels over 11.0nmol/L when compared with men who had testosterone levels under 11.0nmol/L.
It’s a well-known fact that testosterone has the capacity to increase muscle mass, which is why some exercise supplements such as Military Muscle are developed to stimulate more natural secretion.
But how does this happen?
The more testosterone in the body increases the rate of protein synthesis within the muscle (Griggs et al., 1989). This is because of a small change that has a massive knock on effect. Firstly, the muscle fibre diameter increases to allow enhanced blood flow, this leads to an increase in muscle protein synthesis in the sarcoplasm.
Finally, this increases synthesis of non-muscular (blood vessels and erythrocytes) which contributes to protein synthesis within the muscle and in turn increases muscle mass (Griggs et al., 1989).
However, in a study conducted by Griggs et al., (1989) muscle mass had increased but muscular strength had not. It had also been reported that lower levels of testosterone had been related to loss of muscle mass Yuki et al., (2013).
Yuki et al., (2013) stated that protein synthesis is stimulated by testosterone along with preventing protein degradation within muscle cells. Furthermore, testosterone increases satellite cell replication and activation resulting in an increase in muscle mass.
From these two articles above both reporting muscle mass is related to testosterone levels it shows these results are reliable.
Disease Risk Factors
As previously stated, testosterone can help reduce risk factors diseases such as; cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease (Saad, 2012; Kelly and Jones, 2013).
One risk factor that testosterone help reduce are hypertension (high blood pressure) which occurs when a diet is extremely rich in carbohydrates, fats and alcohol (Jiang et al., 2016).
These poor diet choices produce triglycerides in the blood that add to the formation of atherosclerosis (Jiang et al., 2016). This results in fat being accumulated in branch vessels which in turn blocks the blood flow of large arteries (Jiang et al., 2016).
Wang et al., (2011) reported that low testosterone levels were associated with hypertension. This is supported by Webb et al., (1999) who stated that testosterone administration caused dilation of coronary arteries, resulting in there being less chance of coronary heart disease among individuals with higher testosterone levels.
In more recent times Jones (2010) also reported that there is an increased risk of hypertension when testosterone levels are low. This is because of a reduction of tissue plasminogen activator and increased fibrinogen and plasminogen activator, which increases clotting in the blood vessels and arteries (Jones, 2010).
Another risk factor that testosterone lessons is insulin resistance which as recently reported above as vital as it regulates the majority of the aspects of adipocyte biology (Kahn and Flier, 2000).
Jones (2010) states that decreased testosterones levels increase body fat which in turn exacerbates insulin resistance. Yialamas et al., (2007) conducted a study on acute testosterone withdrawal.
Testing was 2 weeks long and included fourteen men. However, two participants couldn’t complete testing. The results of this testing showed insulin sensitivity had reduced due to the withdrawal of testosterone from the twelve men. This suggests that lesser testosterone levels reduce insulin resistance. Thus, increasing body weight, which leads hypertension and finally, diseases like cardiovascular or heart.
Pitteloud et al., (2005) reported on 60 males and found that testosterone levels were positively correlated with insulin resistance (P = 0.005). this is further backing up that testosterone is vital for the body to function effectively.
As we can see from the above research the benefits of testosterone are vastly great and showcase how beneficial it is towards not only physical but also mental health.
Overall, it is clear to see that testosterone holds greater benefits for the human body and mental state of an individual.
However, androstenedione isn’t all bad as it is the hormone that stimulates the use and production of testosterone which has a vast amount of benefits. Although, it is advised not to over-dose on androstenedione as it can cause life threating problems.
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