Watch out men – it is now your turn for your hormonal shifts to be turned into a syndrome.
James Le Fanu
Published: 7:00AM BST 09 Aug 2010
THE ELEXIR of life may be as elusive as ever, but for men there is the tantalising possibility of chemical rejuvenation with the sex hormone testosterone.
“Many physical and behavioural changes of ageing are similar to those that occur in young men with hypogonadism (underactive or absent testes),” observes Professor William Bremner of the University of Washington in the New England Journal of Medicine, including loss of bone and muscle mass, increase in body fat, fatigue and a fading libido. It is thus reasonable to consider whether they might be reversed by testosterone supplements, just as they are in those with hypogonadism.
This, as can be imagined, is tricky. There is no sudden fall-off in the level of testosterone in the same way as happens with oestrogen levels for women going through the menopause. Rather, there tends to be a steady decline from the 50s onwards, more marked in some than others, while it is possible that the tissues of the ageing body become less sensitive to the hormone as time passes.
Still, there is no theoretical reason why that “steady decline” should not, in some, pass a critical point that would warrant testosterone replacement therapy. Recently, Dr Frederick Wu of the University of Manchester, in an ambitious study of almost 3,500 men from eight European countries, has established the criteria for diagnosing “late onset hypogonadism”, as the erstwhile male menopause is now called; low sexual desire and performance with a hormone level less than 13nmol/L.
This should certainly focus attention on who might benefit from testosterone supplements while at the same time “curbing the injudicious use of testosterone therapy in older men”.