I often write about big pharma’s penchant for inventing new diseases. “Low-T”–or low testosterone–is the latest imaginary disorder. And, of course, big pharma wants men to take a new, pricey Low-T drug to “treat” the problem. But a new study found that men who take these Low-T treatments for just three months experience skyrocketing heart attack risk. I’ll tell you more about that disturbing research in a moment. But first, let’s back up…
Once men hit age 30, their testosterone levels naturally drop by about 1 percent per year. Over time, this drop can result in fatigue and a decrease in bone density. It can also result in decreased sexual drive.
Big pharma now offers any number of testosterone gels and patches to prevent men from experiencing this natural part of the aging process. And sales are booming. According to a study published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine, testosterone prescriptions for men over age 40 tripled between 2001 and 2011. But more than a quarter of these men never actually had their testosterone levels checked before receiving the prescription.
A few months ago, the New York Times ran a great Op-Ep piece about this very problem. The editorial stated, ”doctors are prescribing testosterone without even ascertaining whether a patient’s levels are actually low or whether he has a medical condition which warrants it.”
I personally witnessed this problem when I served on an expert panel for the New Jersey State Attorney General. The governor asked us to revise the state’s medical practice laws to rein in these abuses. We discovered that perfectly healthy young male government employees were costing the state millions of dollars each year in unnecessary hormone treatments. We eventually rewrote the medical practice laws so that testosterone could no longer be prescribed to men without demonstrating medical necessity. Nor could doctors prescribe testosterone if they weren’t qualified to do so.
But Low-T treatments aren’t just unnecessary and expensive. They’re downright dangerous!
In fact, in February, a large study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that men 65 and older who took testosterone for just three months doubled their heart attack risk.
As I stated earlier, declining testosterone is actually a natural part of the aging process for men. It may actually help protect men from stresses and strains on the heart.
In fact, a major reason why younger women are protected against heart disease is because they indeed have “Low-T.” Estrogen balances the effects of testosterone in their bodies. But when women stop producing estrogen after menopause, their risks of heart disease climb to those of men.
So–for both men and women, more testosterone means more heart disease. And low testosterone means less heart disease
Testosterone also appears to increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer recurrence or spread. That’s why some men with prostate cancer end up having their testes removed. (I doubt many men would agree to that procedure if testosterone weren’t such a serious cancer risk.
The FDA announced earlier this year that it’s launching an investigation into the safety of testosterone. You can guarantee we won’t have those results for quite some time. So in the meantime, what do the real “hormone” experts have to say about testosterone?
The U.S. Endocrine Society wants more clinical trials to investigate the link between testosterone therapy and cardiovascular disease. And they advise that doctors shouldn’t administer testosterone therapy to men who have had a cardiovascular event (such as heart attack or stroke) in the preceding six months. They also advise that men who meet the guidelines for cardiovascular disease risk should stop taking testosterone.
Bradley Anwalt, M.D., Chair of the Hormone Health Network for the Endocrine Society said, “Testosterone is currently enjoying a reputation for being the elixir of
youth and there is a whole group of men who have low testosterone because of aging, and we just don’t know if they can benefit from testosterone.”
He pointed to the history of other hormone therapies, such as estrogen-replacement therapy. We only learned about the serious risks of estrogen therapy after millions of women had been exposed for decades.
Once again, “Low-T” is a normal part of aging. In fact, I wonder whether most men who take testosterone actually have troubling symptoms…or do they just have trouble accepting getting older? Indeed, aren’t these treatments for “Low-T” just another entry on the sad list of so-called “anti-aging” remedies?
The human body knows best. It produces testosterone when men need it most. And it naturally lets up a bit as men get older. But the effects on the body and normal metabolic balance caused by exogenous (drug) treatments are always different than when the body is supported naturally with nutrients to produce what it needs in a balanced manner. This distinction is especially critical when it comes to hormonal balance. Taking any exogenous (outside) hormone drug is playing with fire. Whether it’s corticosteroids for suppressing the normal immune system, or hormones for their effects on disrupting normal metabolic balance, or testosterone for “anti-aging.”
Hormones are powerful substances. They are normally held in careful balance by exquisitely sensitive feedback loops involving the hypothalamus of the brain, the pituitary gland, and the many glands around the body. Including the testicles.
So we should stop fixating on “hormone replacement” by artificial methods…in other words, men don’t need to use dangerous patches and gels to replace waning testosterone.
However, we can and should look at ways to support the body’s natural youthfulness. When you support the body to do that, natural hormone production in men stays stronger, longer.
For men, eating right with adequate protein…keeping up with regular, light-to-moderate exercise…maintaining lean muscle…and getting plenty of sleep can help support natural testosterone levels. This approach just makes sense. And you will help keep your “young man” hormones at the right levels.
Plus, last year, researchers discovered that men who took a safe and inexpensive supplement naturally made more of their own testosterone. Men who took this supplement also enjoyed markedly increased physical strength and performance after just two to three months! They also improved their gait, which is the single best predictor of longevity.
You can learn more about this safe and effective way to support natural testosterone production in the February 2014 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. Subscribers have free access to all my newsletter archives on my website. Simply log in as a subscriber and type in “Weeding out the “anti-aging” winners,” into the search box. If you’re not yet a subscriber to my newsletter, now is the perfect time to get started.
1. “Increased Risk of Non-Fatal Myocardial Infarction Following Testosterone Therapy Prescription in Men.” PLOS One. 1/29/2014.
2. “Don’t Ask Your Doctor About ‘Low T’”New York Times, (www.nytimes.com) 2/3/2014
3. “Trends in Androgen Prescribing in the United States, 2001 to 2011,” JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(15):1465-1466.