Does Testosterone Lower Blood Sugar?
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert. Sport & Exercise Nutrition. L2 Strength & Conditioning Coach.
Ever wondered why females also produce testosterone, though in much smaller amounts than men?
The reason is simple: testosterone may be primarily a sex hormone, but it has a widespread impact on other body functions, especially metabolism.
Therefore, while the amounts produced do not encourage as much muscle growth as men, smaller amounts are required for bodily functions.
In this article we shall cover the following key points:
- Testosterone's effects
- Testosterone and blood sugar
A process that is evidentally different between the two genders. Therefore, it would naturally have an impact on blood glucose levels.
Thus, to no surprise, one of the illicit uses of testosterone is for fat loss, not just lean mass gain.
Therefore, it is right to ask what kind of impact would it have on blood sugar levels and whether it could possibly have a role in metabolic disorders.
Most studies suggest that testosterone is a potent metabolic booster, an anabolic hormone, that may help normalize blood sugar levels. Not only that, it may even have a positive impact on the lipid profile, too.
One of the issues with conducting research into anabolic hormones is because of the widespread abuse by sportspeople.
Testosterone is banned by WADA and other regulators, as a result studies examining the effects of anabolics on athletes are considered 'taboo'.
This means it is difficult to propose research (and raise funding) and recruit athletes for testing. This can limit our understanding, which can lead to lots of anecdotal reporting that isnt in a controlled setting.
However, what little clinical research is available has demonstrated the powerful effects testosterone has on the body.
This also led to the production of many anabolic steroids, both through the official pharmaceutical channels and on the black market.
These are synthetic and manufactured anabolic agents that have a similar structure to testosterone and mimic its effects.
As a result testosterone therapy has become highly controlled by regulatory agencies in some regions, significantly discouraging research into the area.
The androgenic properties of this hormone are its primary effect, and by no means can it be seen as a side effect.
So, let us look in-depth at what science know regarding its impact on blood sugar levels.
Testosterone and blood sugar levels
The primary male sex hormone is a multi-faceted hormone with many health benefits. It is a potent stimulator of bones, muscles, blood tissue, sexual desire, mood, and cognition.
Some researchers have even proposed its role in managing diabetes in specific population groups.
Regretfully, testosterone therapy remains in a grey area in medicine, with doctors hesitant to prescribe it, though it is a textbook treatment for many health conditions.
Just take an example of the study that explored erectile dysfunction and impotence in men living with diabetes – a condition quite common in diabetic men.
The study found that men living with diabetes have much lower testosterone levels when compared to non-diabetic men of the same age living with erectile dysfunction.
However, it only shows the importance of hormonal therapy in such individuals.
Moreover, those living with high blood sugar levels have other health issues like low immunity, poor bone health, dyslipidemia, neuropathies.
Testosterone may not only help reduce blood sugar levels but may also help manage many of these conditions. For example, testosterone is one of the recommended treatments for poor bone health.
There are many ways in which anabolic hormones may help lower blood sugar and LDL cholesterol. It boosts metabolism.
More importantly, it is an excellent insulin sensitizer. It may improve glucose intake by skeletal muscles, liver, and other body tissues.
Understanding the influence of testosterone is critical for providing better healthcare to the aging population. It is vital to understand that testosterone levels fall with age. At the same time, the prevalence of diabetes increases with aging.
Thus, there are a considerable number of older adults living with high blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. These numbers are exceptionally high in adults older than 65 years of age.
These are also people with relatively low testosterone levels. It is pretty likely that low testosterone might be a significant cause of high blood glucose in this population group.
Of course, there are some areas that need research. For example, post-menopausal women are more likely to develop high blood glucose along with osteoporosis as their estrogen and progesterone (and testosterone levels) fluctuate.
Testosterone may help improve bone density. However, it is unclear if testosterone would also be good for lowering blood glucose in the population group who are experiencing the menopause.
Further, it is vital to have a broader understanding of testosterone. Many of its beneficial effects on blood glucose profiles are indirect, like obesity causes higher production of adipokines, thus high blood sugar and dyslipidemia. However, testosterone also has a role in tackling obesity.
Most studies show that obesity is associated with low testosterone. But, science has been reluctant to say that low testosterone might be causing obesity in many men.
Instead, this effect could be due to the direct impact of low testosterone and also due to altered behavior.
Nevertheless, many researchers are clearly stating that testosterone should be seen as a key hormone in a fight against obesity, metabolic disorders, and high blood sugar levels.
Low testosterone is linked with altered energy balance, fat accumulation, increasing insulin resistance, and higher blood glucose.
However, to date, testosterone remains one of the highly neglected hormones in clinical practice.
It is quite unlikely that anyone living with diabetes would be checked for testosterone levels.
What is even worse, many men complaining about low libido or erectile dysfunction may not be advised on how to improve their testosterone production, and instead might be offered treatment with other medications, including anti-depressants.
Fortunately, some studies are now advocating the need for increasing awareness regarding low testosterone in those living with high blood glucose.
In addition, those who have other signs like obesity, poor lipid profile, reduced libido should definitely undergo testing for testosterone levels.
Since so many people are living with high blood glucose, it would make a considerable difference even if some of them were given testosterone replacement therapy.
This might help boost libido, improve bone and muscle mass and help control blood sugar levels.
Blood sugar and testosterone: Conclusion
To conclude, testosterone is not just a sex hormone but a hormone with a widespread impact on human metabolism.
Thus, it is essential to visualize it as a metabolic booster. For example, it promotes the burning of fats, improves glucose intake by body tissues, reduces insulin resistance, and thus helps get better control over the blood sugar levels.