Testosterone is a critical hormone for men and women. The levels in men are much higher and its role is certainly much more significant.
The hormone is needed for good male sexual health as well as muscle and bone development, for reducing obesity and general fertility. As men age, testosterone levels fall away. There is also concern in Western countries that changes in the environment and lifestyle choices are radically altering male testosterone levels in an irretrievable manner.
In the USA, it is thought that over 13 million men have lower than normal testosterone levels for their age. The most common symptoms appear to low sex drive, erectile dysfunction coupled with weight gain. It is weight gain strangely that has caught most attention because of its impact on other life factors.
Covid-19 And Low Testosterone Levels
A joint study by Saudi Arabian and USA researchers has shown a direct correlation between low levels of testosterone, the progression of the disease, the presence of cytokines associated with high levels of inflammation and other aspects of poor recovery from this respiratory illness.
The study was published in the journal Medical Hypotheses. It appears that the virus targets various cells including the ACE2 receptor cells. These are expressed in the Leydig cells of the testis and affects the production and secretion of testosterone in male Covoid-19 sufferers.
One of the target cells for testosterone via an androgen receptor is the production of a protein called TMPRSS2. This is a transmembrane protease which is prevalent in the prostate and is needed for normal functioning of this gland. The protease is also implicated in COVID-19 infectivity because of its role in proteolysis.
TMPRSS2 is expressed in many different tissues and is significantly higher in the lungs of men than in women. The role of testosterone is to modulate immune response. Low levels of the hormone affect modulation. In men, the levels of testosterone should be between 7 and 8 times higher than in women. The impact of the disease is much more significant in men with lower levels of testosterone because the endothelial cells do not function as well as they should and produce a faulty immune response. There is also poorer clearance of the virus and worse systemic inflammation.
The reason of the interest in obesity and recent weight gain is down to the production of more pro-inflammatory cytokines. Their production is associated with increased susceptibility to the virus with all the disease implications that entails.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced on exposure to UV rays in sunlight. When it is activated it serves as a steroidal hormone which is needed for stimulating the production of testosterone (Wehr et al., 2010). Vitamin D can be viewed as essential for proper male sexual functioning.
Increasing stores of vitamin D van help improve a number of health related issues including sperm quality and its production. In the winter months, for many people, production of vitamin D may not be an option by exposure to a weak sun so supplementation is the best route.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a popular herb found in Asian cooking. There are some studies which suggest it has benefits in male sexual function (Steels et al., 2011). In this study, 60 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 62 were either given 600mg of fenugreek or a placebo in the form of a pill for 60 weeks. Those taking fenugreek claimed improvements in their overall physical strength. A more recent review claims that fenugreek extracts enhance testosterone production which can be linked back to increased muscle development and activity (Mansoori et al., 2020).
One of our natural amino acids which is needed for the synthesis and release of testosterone. Research has shown it to be important for boosting the hormone’s production in infertile men.
One study showed that when men with impaired sperm production were given a supplement of aspartic acid over 90 days, their sperm count rose from 8.2 million sperm per ml to 16.5 million sperm per ml. The increase was well over 100 per cent.
Supplementation with aspartic acid may not be all that helpful in some quarters. Athletes looking to develop muscle have found it not so effective as claimed. men who were involved in resistance training for four times a week found their muscle strength was little different to those which did the same type of exercise without supplementing with this amino acid (Willoughby & Leutholtz, 2013).
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Mansoori, A., Hosseini, S., Zilaee, M., Hormoznejad, R., Fathi, M. (2020) Effect of fenugreek extract supplement on testosterone levels in male: A meta-analysis of clinical trials. Phytother Res. Jul;34(7):1550-1555. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6627. Epub 2020 Feb 11. PMID: 32048383. (Article)
Steels, E., Rao, A., Vitetta, L. (2011) Physiological aspects of male libido enhanced by standardized Trigonella foenum-graecum extract and mineral formulation. Phytother Res. Sep;25(9):1294-300. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3360. Epub 2011 Feb 10. PMID: 21312304. (Article)
Wehr E, Pilz S, Boehm BO, März W, Obermayer-Pietsch B. (2010) Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). Aug;73(2):243-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2009.03777.x. Epub 2009 Dec 29. PMID: 20050857. (Article)