Doctors should encourage overweight, middle-aged, and pre-diabetic men to lose weight through diet and exercise before putting them on testosterone replacement therapy, says the author of a new study presented at the a Houston medical conference.
Dr. Frances Hayes, a professor at St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, said that men who suffer from low testosterone levels can restore their hormones by nearly 50 percent by adhering to a healthier, more active lifestyle.
The study monitored 900 American men with an average age of 54 who had been diagnosed with impaired glucose tolerance, or pre-diabetes. The men, all of whom were at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, could delay or avoid developing the disease through weight loss, researchers found.
The men were randomly placed in one of three treatment groups, with one group receiving the diabetes drug metformin, one a placebo, and one a regimen of exercising 150 minutes per week and eating less fat and calories.
At the beginning of the study, 20 percent of the men in the diet and exercise group were diagnosed with low testosterone levels (below 300 nanograms per deciliter of blood). After one year, however, only 11 percent had low testosterone levels.
The results weren’t nearly as drastic for the other two groups. Of the men in the metformin group, 24.8 percent had low testosterone at the study’s onset. After one year, that number fell just one percent. The same happened in the placebo group; 25.6 percent of the subjects had low testosterone to start. After one year, 24.6 percent of the men in that group had low testosterone.
Men in the diet and exercise group lost 17 pounds on average and experienced a 15 percent average increase in their testosterone level after one year.
“Losing weight not only reduces the risk of prediabetic men progressing to diabetes but also appears to increase their body’s production of testosterone,” Dr. Hayes said. The study was presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual Meeting in Houston on June 25.
Sales of Androgel, Testim, and other prescription testosterone drugs are soaring in the U.S. and other countries, thanks to aggressive marketing by drug makers that depicts the drugs as something of a panacea for declining sex drive, muscle mass, energy levels, and weight gain.
Testosterone drug sales hit $1.6 billion in 2011, up 133 percent in just four years. According to data compiled by Bloomberg analysts, 5.6 million prescriptions were written for testosterone replacement therapies last year and sales are expected to triple to $5 billion in just the next five years.