Reduced testosterone is an unpleasant fate that men nowadays seem to be experiencing at alarmingly younger ages.
Since several decades ago, men's testosterone levels have been falling. The average modern man has testosterone levels that are far lower than those of men even 50 years ago, and perhaps even much lower than those of men from hundreds of years ago.
Although a certain amount of testosterone decline with age is normal, there has been a generational decline in testosterone levels ever since the 1970s or earlier. When compared to their fathers and grandfathers—and perhaps further back in the family tree—our Gen Z men and millennials have much lower testosterone levels on average than do those generations.
Men's testosterone levels have only been measured since the middle of the 20th century, and accurate blood tests to measure testosterone levels have only been possible since the development of radio immunoassay techniques in the 1960s; otherwise, testosterone levels would have been seriously declining for many generations.
According to this 2007 study, the typical total testosterone level of a 60-year-old man in the late 1980s was around 17.5nmol/L or 504.32ng/dL. However, in 2002, a 60-year-old guy had a about 432.28ng/dL total testosterone level. And the year is 2023, when testosterone levels have fallen much lower. As a result, men's testosterone levels are typically falling by 10-15% annually, but they could decrease by as much as 25%.
Similar trends have been seen in studies of the populations of Finland and Denmark. The average testosterone levels across all age groups decreased by more than 10% between 2006 and 2019, according to a more recent large-scale research of Israeli men.
According to this Finnish study, free testosterone levels are also falling along with rising levels of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), a compound that binds free testosterone and renders it inactive.
What is the Difference Between Free Testosterone and Bound Testosterone?
Both the bound and unbound forms of testosterone are present in total testosterone levels. These are determined using a straightforward blood test that gauges testosterone levels.
For many years, the main measure of men's health and fertility has been their total testosterone levels. However, it's crucial to assess the hormone's bound and unbound levels while evaluating testosterone.
Free testosterone is referred to as "unbound testosterone" and can bind to receptors on any type of human cell. Free testosterone can freely carry out cellular processes and regulate metabolism, for example.
The body contains Sex Hormone Binding Globulins, which are proteins produced in your liver. It is associated with testosterone. Your body's level of sex hormones in active circulation is regulated by SHBG. The body is unable to access or use bound testosterone when it is bound to SHBG. Only free testosterone is used by body tissues.
For a number of reasons, SHBG levels can become excessive, leading to an increase of bound testosterone that cannot be used. Therefore, even if a man's testosterone levels are normal, he may still experience low T symptoms if too much SHBG is bound to his testosterone. The low testosterone epidemic is also fueled by high levels of SHBG in combination with normal T levels.
However, it is not just men's bound or unbound testosterone levels that are a concern. Along with other reproductive diseases like ED, impotence, and testicular and prostate cancer, sperm counts are declining.
A crucial hormone is testosterone. As the hormone responsible for making men into men, testosterone is also thought to play a role in a man's general health and well-being. Testosterone supports a variety of functions, including mood, drive, motivation, wellbeing, hair growth, bone density, weight control, and muscular size.
Why are Testosterone levels falling?
That is a challenging question. In actuality, it's not totally clear, but it most likely comes down to a confluence of contemporary elements. In former eras, these things were not present—at least not to the same extent as they are today in contemporary industrialized nations. So it comes as no surprise that total testosterone levels appear to be declining.
High Levels of Xenoestrogens Everywhere
It becomes more and more difficult to avoid encountering hormone-disrupting chemicals in our food and water supply, personal care products, cookware, sunscreens, lawn care products, household cleaners, and even pharmaceutical products.
Many of these chemical-based endocrine disrupters are dangerous because they mimic estrogen in the body. These synthetic estrogen-like compounds are called ‘xenoestrogens’. Xenoestrogens attach to estrogen receptors and amplify harmful effects of estrogen, causing natural hormones to go askew.
Xenoestrogens can contribute to unnatural early puberty, hormone imbalances, reduced testosterone and fertility, reproductive problems, and a higher risk of certain types of cancers. Xenoestrogens are also responsible for weight gain, erectile dysfunction, and ‘man boobs’.
Xenoestrogens cause an unnatural increase in estrogen in men, block the natural production of testosterone, and lower sperm count and decrease fertility.
Obviously, xenoestrogens sound like something people should avoid at all costs. But how do we avoid them when they are everywhere? It may be difficult to totally avoid them, but there are definite ways to reduce exposure to xenoestrogens. Let’s look at where xenoestrogens are found:
Xenoestrogens can be found in pesticides, plastics, fuels, foods, preservatives, and drugs. Many xenoestrogens are present in processed, packaged foods and conventionally grown produce—as either preservatives or pesticides.
There are also xenoestrogens in conventional dairy, meat, and eggs. Commercial dairy and egg farmers often feed estrogenic chemicals to dairy cows and chickens because it will increase production of their milk or eggs. This makes conventional dairy, eggs, and meat major sources of xenoestrogens. Growth hormones given to commercial livestock have estrogen-like qualities as well.
Plastics contain a lot of xenoestrogens, particularly in softer plastics like water bottles, soft drink containers, and storage containers. Worst of all are the plastic food containers that are used to heat up leftovers in the microwave. Microwaving sends a large dose of the xenoestrogens from the plastic into food.
High Cortisol and Testosterone
Life has become very competitive and very stressful. Jobs, money, family, climate change, pandemics, wars, and on and on. More people than ever are dealing with unprecedented levels of chronic stress today. While you probably already know that stress can impact moods, sleep, and immune function—it also can affect your testosterone levels as well.
High stress levels cause higher cortisol levels. According to research from University of Texas at Austin, chronically elevated cortisol levels will lower testosterone, increase the occurrence of impotence, and lower libido by inhibiting testosterone production in men.
Stress and cortisol can come from physical stress like exercise, or mental and emotional stress. Male athletes who are training hard tend to have lowered levels of testosterone as well. Athletes who overtrain, and don’t take enough time off for their bodies to recover, tend to have lower levels of testosterone than average. Reductions in testosterone at the low end of ‘clinically normal’ is generally true particularly with excessive endurance training.
The problem with stress and testosterone is that it can turn into a vicious cycle. Low testosterone levels lead to more stress, which raises cortisol and causes testosterone levels to drop even lower.
Researchers are still learning more about the direct physiological connection between stress and low testosterone. In addition to the physical response other side effects of stress like poor sleep, and low energy also contribute to lower testosterone levels.
Men’s bodies contain three glands responsible for production of testosterone in men: The hypothalamus, the anterior pituitary gland, and the testes. The hypothalamus releases a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which acts on the pituitary gland.
- The pituitary gland releases luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
- In response to circulating LH and FSH levels, your testes will begin to make more testosterone.
Alcohol disrupts testosterone production by interfering with the signals of all three glands. This results in the usual low testosterone symptoms: erectile dysfunction, infertility, and reduced male sexual characteristics. Alcohol also impairs the function of the testicular Sertoli cells that play an important role in sperm maturation.
Disruptions to these LH and FSH can lead a complete stoppage of sperm production. Studies have found that 50 percent of heavy drinkers had spermatogenic arrest compared to only 20 percent of men who were not heavy drinkers. They also found that men who drank heavily had
Alcohol is also a substance that can cause the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. When alcohol is consumed, alcohol stimulates an enzyme called aromatase, which initiates the process of converting testosterone into estrogen. So, testosterone levels decrease, and estrogen increases in response to drinking.
Overweight, Obesity and Testosterone
We all have body fat, but some of us have more than others. One of the biggest health issues in modern society is the prevalence of excess body fat and obesity. There are many reasons for this including, a poor diet high in carbohydrates and sugar, stress, lack of exercise, and sleep issues that can pile on the pounds.
Unfortunately, being a man and being overweight can cause free testosterone levels to drop drastically. There is a ton of evidence that shows obesity as being a primary factor in low testosterone levels. Obesity, in fact, is the number one most effective predictor of low testosterone in men—out of all possible risk factors.
The key reason is that fat cells contain aromatase. As with alcohol, aromatase converts testosterone and its ‘parent’ hormones into estrogen. What happens is this—when a man starts gaining extra fat, aromatase levels go up. This converts existing testosterone into estrogen. And by the way, abdominal fat contains the highest levels of aromatase.
Here’s an all-too-frequent-scenario of today’s modern man: Our modern guy is carrying around excess chronic stress from work, his home life, kids, and more. This causes him to have high cortisol levels which in turn begins to lower testosterone, and probably affects his sleep as well.
Cortisol also increases blood sugar and causes this guy to get the munchies and gain weight—especially around the midsection. Aromatase starts to increase.
To combat the excess stress, our guy goes out and throws back a couple pints every evening after work with his buddies, instead of heading to the gym to work out. The alcohol raises his cortisol levels and his aromatase levels. More testosterone is converted to estrogen and testosterone production also slows down. The excess alcohol, combined with the higher-than-normal cortisol levels begin to cause a ‘beer belly’ in our guy.
All these things increase aromatase, raising levels of estrogen, and lowering testosterone. Lower testosterone makes managing stress more difficult. In addition, low testosterone levels decrease muscle mass, instead of increasing it, meaning more body fat as well. Low T also means low motivation, so instead our guy feeling like he can ‘take on the world,’ he’d much rather sit on his couch with a cold one in his hand.
The result for our poor guy is a vicious cycle of low testosterone, high estrogen, low motivation, low energy, low libido, erectile dysfunction, ‘man boobs’, more body fat, loss of lean muscle tissue, along with irritability and depression. This is today’s man stuck in a downward spiral of stress, excess fat, and consuming too much alcohol and junk food. This happens every day, all the time, with too many men. No wonder average testosterone levels are way lower than the past!
Contrast that with a primitive man, who spent most of his day laboring or tracking animals. he was lean and muscular. Stress was short-lived, and not chronically present in his everyday life. Alcohol was not readily available, food was completely natural and void of excess sugars, and there were no processed vegetable oils and refined carbohydrates. And no xenoestrogens in his environment. This guy had plenty of testosterone, along with motivation, drive, high libido and energy.
The Secret to Regaining Control of Testosterone Levels
- Cut out sugar, starches, carbs, and processed vegetable oils, and, if necessary, get a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to monitor blood sugar levels.
- Eat REAL meat, especially grass-fed meat. Eat organic, grass fed dairy. Sorry vegans.
- Cut way back on alcohol or quit all together. One drink per day should be maximum. Hint: sometimes it’s easier to quit totally then trying to reduce alcohol intake.
- Remove or reduce xenoestrogens in your environment. Switch to natural, organic personal care products including shave cream, soaps, deodorant, shampoos, lotions, sunscreen, laundry soap, and cleaning products. Stop the cologne and body sprays. Avoid all plastic, especially if it is in contact with your food. Stop microwaving your food. Avoid other chemicals, solvents, and paints.
- Get back to the gym! Lift heavy weights, sprint, and do intense exercise. Lifting weights and other intense exercise not only helps to increase testosterone levels but also burns fat, and increases lean muscle mass. Working out also decreases stress and cortisol.
As the article mentions testosterone is dropping at an alarming rate for men all over the world, so if you’re a man over the age of 40, then pay attention…
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