When I recommend testosterone to my patients I get a lot of what I call “broscience” or statements beginning with “Dr. Carragher, but I heard…” responses. The kind of pop science stuff that travels by word of mouth and is asserted in glossy magazines with lots of certainty but not much research. Worse yet, many of these myths are propagated by physicians themselves! It has created so much confusion around testosterone and resultantly many myths about this crucial hormone.
To dispel these prominent myths, I’ve collected the top ten in this counterpoint countdown. If you missed Myths 10 through 6, you can click here to check them out!
So now, without further adieu, here are the Top 5 testosterone myths.
Myth: Taking testosterone causes heart disease.
Fact: The overwhelming majority of studies show that supplementing with testosterone is beneficial for your heart.
This is a myth that has received a lot of attention because for some reason, the general public hears of one study (usually the most recent) and tends to latch onto it as the credible source. It’s true that there have been some poorly designed studies, which dovetail with prejudices about hormone supplementation, that correlate testosterone and heart issues, but they fly in the face of the overwhelming evidence that taking testosterone is beneficial for the heart.
When we take the studies on the subject as a whole, we see a bigger and more accurate picture: The Journal of the American Heart Association published a major review article (Testosterone and the Cardiovascular System: A Comprehensive Review of the Clinical Literature, JAHA 2(6):e000272, October 2013) looking at over 100 studies done of testosterone and the heart over the past 20 years and their overall finding was that testosterone is beneficial for the heart!
The heart is a muscle much like any muscle in the body. If you give it the right amount of testosterone it improves the health of the muscle, making it stronger and work more efficiently. Testosterone also decreases the amount of unnecessary fat on the body, which also helps the heart function more efficiently. So in both direct and indirect ways, testosterone is good for your heart.
Myth: Taking testosterone will cause hair loss in men.
Fact: Testosterone is not the single determining factor in hair loss.
Hair loss is a multi-factorial phenomenon. Diet, sleep, your individual biochemistry and genetics, aging alone, and more, all play a part. When it comes to testosterone itself, we see that if you have increased conversion of testosterone to something called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and you have a predisposition to male pattern baldness, then testosterone can quicken hair loss.
In fact, testosterone can actually stimulate hair growth for many men. For those whom supplementing with testosterone would be the final straw in causing hair loss, there are plenty of remedies available, including minoxidil, finasteride, and more.
Myth: Testosterone will make men grow “man boobs.”
Fact: Testosterone does not cause breast growth in men, but a high estrogen-testosterone ratio may.
Since there’s an enzyme (aromatase) that turns testosterone into estrogen, men who take too much testosterone can get increased conversion to estrogen, depending upon how much of this enzyme they have. If their estrogen level gets too high and they have estrogen-sensitive breast tissue, they may get breast tissue growth. However, men with low testosterone may also have a high estrogen-testosterone ratio. This is why men who are overweight and don’t have a regular exercise regime can develop breast tissue: their testosterone is low and often their estrogen is high because there is a high amount of estrogen produced in fat cells.
The problem of breast tissue development is extremely uncommon in my practice. Partly because it’s rare in general, but also because at The Body Well, my clinic in Los Angeles, we’re always keeping an eye on key hormone levels and making sure they’re optimal. On top of that, it’s an easily manageable problem: usually a simple pill which blocks estrogen will stop breast tissue growth if it happens. (Note: I am not an advocate of automatically placing men on estrogen blockers (e.g. Arimdex) because too low of estrogen levels for men is problematic as well -low estrogen levels in men is associated with low sex drive and increased midsection fat gain.)
Myth: Testosterone will shrink your testicles.
Fact: Testosterone, when properly administered, rarely causes testicular shrinking.
This is another myth of scale; in other words, there’s some truth here, but it’s overemphasized and misunderstood. By taking testosterone, you are decreasing testicular production of testosterone. That means your testicles can shrink marginally because they’re not doing as much work as they normally do. Shrinkage is a rare condition, though, and easily reversible. Patients that are particularly sensitive can be assisted by a change in their dose, a change in the form of testosterone they are taking, or through supplementary medications like human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) , clomiphene (Clomid), or kisspeptin that stimulate testicular production and therefore can preserve testicular size.
Myth: Testosterone will make you “aggro” and pissed off all the time.
Fact: Testosterone improves your outlook and general sense of well-being!
The number one effect that men on testosterone therapy report is an overall improved sense of well-being. They simply feel better! That’s because testosterone is a positive mood enhancer! The flip side? Men with low testosterone are often irritable, frustrated, and angry (think about the typical grumpy old man).
Furthermore, testosterone is essential in healthy brain function. So not having enough means that brain function is impaired. That leads to lack of clarity, brain fog, and more.
Of course an excess of testosterone can make you aggressive, but any substance once abused is problematic.
To optimize your testosterone and other key hormone levels, contact us for an evaluation: email email@example.com or call (323) 874-9355. We care for patients from all over the world, so you do not need to be living in the Los Angeles area for us to help.