Nature loves balance. It looks like Yin and Yang harmony works out perfectly well even when we talk about male and female hormones determining our bodies. The latest research about testosterone treatment, for men who have low numbers, showed that the male libido, surprisingly, drops when female associated estrogen in their bodies goes down.
The common belief that in order to be a macho man you have to have an abundance of testosterone might be wrong. According to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine observing men being treated for low testosterone levels, researchers found even if testosterone numbers went up during the treatment, it did not fully bring the sexual desire back into men’s life unless estrogen numbers also went up.
Surprising results were obtained during an experiment involving 400 healthy men aged 20 to 50 years old. They had injections suppressing natural production of both hormones, testosterone and estrogen, then they were separated into two groups. One group was given testosterone gel in variant amounts, while the other group along with testosterone gel was given a drag suppressing the natural mechanism of conversion of testosterone to estrogen. After 16 weeks of study, researchers found that even if testosterone levels in both groups went up, sexual function affected by the hormonal drop returned to men unevenly. Lack of sexual drive was found to be especially affecting men with low numbers of estrogen being produced by their bodies.
Loss of sexual drive was not the only blowback of lacking estrogen, researchers found. While testosterone is playing a major role in forming lean mass and strength of muscles, lack of estrogen is responsible for increasing percentage of body fat – a problem even affecting aging women.
Results, according to the lead author who conducted the research, endocrinologist of the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Joel Finkelstein, are going to surprise many people showing that estrogen plays a very important role in male bodies. So far, research has mostly been focused on how estrogen affects women bodies, and testosterone – men’s, leaving the influence of opposite sex hormones on our bodies in the shady area of unknown.
Previously, it was believed that men lose their sexual drive with age due to a lower amount of testosterone their bodies produce. Average level of testosterone falls by about one percent every year after men turn 40. It does not impair sexual function in most men, but if it does hormone replacement therapy is thought to be helpful; which includes testosterone injections, gels, or skin patches. New studies, though showing how estrogen levels are linked to the decline of sexual power, has not change the ways of treating the problem. Luckily, men and women’s bodies equally know how to transform testosterone into estrogen, so raising your testosterone level should raise estrogen level as well.
Although the study of Dr. Finkelstein and his team was conducted for men age 20 to 50, now he wants to continue his research investigating how testosterone and estrogen levels will affect older men. Their team is not the only one questioning the problem.
The Testosterone Trial study, another one researching the same subject, is led by Dr. Peter Snyder from the University of Pennsylvania. His team is conducting a study on men age 65 and older with reduced testosterone levels. Their plan is to investigate how increasing level of testosterone might enhance life of older volunteers improving their walking speed, memory, blood quality, coronary system and arteries, bone strength and other systems. However, testing their estrogen level is going to be also a part of the study.
If concluded, both studies might not only help us to understand how male sexual desire drives on estrogen level, but, going wider, how opposite sex hormones affect our life. They also might bring us closer to new treatments making a breakthrough into one of Nature’s enigmas – a delicate balance required by our bodies to live in harmony.
By Alsu Salakhutdinov