I often warn about the dangerous side effects of testosterone hormone treatments for men, including the increased risk of heart attack, stroke, heart disease, and prostate cancer. To make matters worse, doctors widely prescribe these “Low-T” treatments to men who don’t even have low testosterone.
Of course, big pharma promises these drugs will supercharge your sex life. But, as it turns out, these low-T drugs don’t even work as intended!
According to a new trial, testosterone therapy can’t really turn back time on men’s virility and sexual activity. In fact, the new study shows testosterone doesn’t even improve men’s sex lives at all!
Someone who could teach us all a thing or two about healthy aging
Researchers at the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center in Boston conducted the new study.
I was glad to see such good research coming out of this center, named after the long-term U.S. congressman from Florida who took a keen interest in healthy aging. At one point, Claude D. Pepper was the oldest serving member of Congress.
Thirty years ago, while serving as a state medical examiner in Florida I got to know U.S. Rep. Pepper as a distinguished member of the Florida delegation to the U.S. Congress. When I myself got to Washington, D.C., to research the role of nutrition in chronic diseases, Mr. Pepper wrote me to ask how he could help support our new research program on diet and cancer.
Of course, my bureaucratic bosses at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) immediately muzzled me and told me I couldn’t have any communications with Congress. They told me the political division of the NIH would handle all such correspondence. I never knew what they told Mr. Pepper. Nor did I ever have the opportunity to provide the former congressman with the courtesy of a reply! (So much for the First Amendment in the federal government.)
Ironically, at about the same time, we were working to establish research collaborations between the NIH and the Peoples Republic of China. NIH officials used to complain about how “political cadres” in Communist China would interfere with the hard work of us scientists. But looking back, I now realize the NIH should have been looking in its own backyard when it comes to their own political cadres.
Eventually, I moved back to Florida. But by then congressman Pepper had long since passed away in his late 90s.
Thankfully, the Pepper Center lives on. And among other things, it has uncovered that middle-aged and older men who take testosterone therapy because they have low-normal or slightly low levels didn’t show any improvement.
The $2 billion dollar placebo effect
The study looked at safety and effectiveness of testosterone treatments in 308 men older than 60 years. The men all had testosterone levels in the low or low-normal range — which IS actually “normal” in aging men.
After three years, the men who used a topical testosterone gel didn’t show any improvement in their sex lives, measured by sexual desire, erectile function, and overall sexual performance. They all had the same results as the men given a placebo treatment.
Tragically, none of this real research has stopped testosterone therapy from becoming big business in the U.S. In the 1990s, these drugs generated about $20 million per year in sales. As of 2012, it’s a $2 billion industry.
Of course, I did what I could to help hold back the tide…
The only safe way to maximize your virility
A few years ago, I served on an expert panel in New Jersey to reform medical prescribing guidelines for testosterone treatments, at the invitation of Governor Chris Christie. It turned out perfectly healthy, young government employees — such as police officers and firefighters — were wasting millions of taxpayer dollars by abusing prescriptions for testosterone. They didn’t need these treatments, but unscrupulous and unqualified physicians were prescribing them anyway. And their taxpayer-funded insurance plans paid for the treatments.
Our panel created new guidelines to put these charlatans out of business. And the State Attorney General worked with the State Medical Examiner to impose restrictions and sanctions on the medical licenses of abusive physicians. Now, of course, Gov. Christie is running for president and trying to put another group of charlatans out of business at a national level, something which is sorely needed.
Of course, this whole Low-T industry is a waste when it comes to healthy aging. You can improve your health — even your sexual health — with the right diet and exercise.
In fact, one recent important study showed men who took 400 mg of the natural herbs aspal (rooibos/red bush) and dandelion for several weeks improved their measures of physical performance and vitality, the strongest predictors of longevity. Plus, a study published in 2012 showed that a combination of aspal and dandelion supports testicular cells in lab animals to naturally make more of their own testosterone. This natural approach is far safer than “replacing” testosterone with gels, patches, or other risky gimmicks.
When it comes to sexual vitality and healthy aging, don’t go “looking in all the wrong places.” Save yourself some money with natural ingredients like aspal and dandelion.
***In Memory of James A. Snow, Sr. (July 27, 1931 to October 26, 2015)***
As I was drafting this column, I learned of the death of our oldest family friend, Jim Snow. His family and ours grew up together in New England during the mid-1960s. It was a “golden age.” He was a life-long New Englander. And over the past seven years, we had the privilege of spending more time together in New England during our regular visits there. One night, Jim and his family came for dinner, undeterred during a typical nor’easter, on the evening he finally retired from running his own manufacturing business at the age of 80. We spent Thanksgivings together since then. “Big Jim” had five healthy, happy and successful children, including Jim, Jr., who was my first best friend. Jim Sr. lived a long, healthy life as a true, robust example of “healthy male aging.” May he rest in his peace and in the memory of his family and friends.
- “Effects of Testosterone Administration for 3 Years on Subclinical Atherosclerosis Progression in Older Men With Low or Low-Normal Testosterone Levels: : A Randomized Clinical Trial,” Journal of the American Medical Association 2015;314(6):570-581
- “Improvement of andropause symptoms by dandelion and rooibos extract complex CRS-10 in aging male,”Nutr Res Pract2012; 6(6): 505–512