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October 2003

Male Menopause
Nutrient supplements can boost testosterone

While the above studies emphasize the importance of exercise and proper diet, the judicious use of certain nutrient supplements can also help to augment a man’s testosterone levels as he ages. While there’s no magic supplement on the market today that can turn a 50-year-old man into his 20-year-old former self, there are some safe, well-studied supplements that every man facing andropause should consider adding to his daily regime.

Zinc–essential for sexual health
One supplement that is essential for maintaining a man’s sexual functioning is zinc. This mineral is involved in almost every aspect of male reproduction, including testosterone metabolism, sperm formation and sperm motility. There have been multiple studies on the effectiveness of zinc in treating male infertility due to low testosterone levels.[23,24] A prime example of the usefulness of zinc was illustrated in a study of 37 infertile men with decreased testosterone levels and associated low sperm counts.[25] The men were given 60 mg of zinc daily for 45 to 50 days. In 22 patients, testosterone levels significantly increased and mean sperm count rose from 8 to 20 million.

Indole-3-carbinol maintains hormonal balance
Getting an adequate intake of indole-3-carbinol (I3C), either through vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage or via supplements, may prove helpful in keeping estrogen levels in check and decreasing the risk of prostate cancer. Studies have demonstrated that I3C increases the ratio of 2-hydroxyesterone to 16-alpha-hydroxyesterone, thereby causing a decrease in “bad” estrogen and an increase in “good” estrogen. For men, this very well might mean a decrease in prostate cancer. In a study done last year that examined the association of prostate cancer risk with estrogen metabolism, the authors stated that “results of this case-control study suggest that the estrogen metabolic pathway favoring 2-hydroxylation over 16-alpha-hydroxylation may reduce risk of clinically evident prostate cancer.”[26]

DHEA may help keep testosterone at optimal levels
Besides a decline in testosterone levels, there is also a decline seen in dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in aging males. DHEA, a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal glands in both men and women, is transformed into a variety of important hormones, including estrogen. Several studies have shown that restoring DHEA to youthful levels in older adults increases both physical and mental well being. In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 50 mg of DHEA given every night for six months, both male and female patients (aged 40-to-70) who took DHEA had statistically significant improvements in their energy levels, quality of sleep, mood, and ability to handle stress.[27] Another study measured DHEA levels in 36 men aged 90 to 103 and found that patients who had the highest levels of DHEA had the highest levels of normal daily activities.[28]

Supplemental testosterone–the key to overcoming andropause?
In any middle-aged man who is experiencing symptoms of andropause, a test of his testosterone levels, both total and free, is essential. If testosterone levels are indeed low, then the use of exogenous, or supplemental, testosterone should be considered. Fortunately, today there are many ways, from gels to patches, that a man with andropause can increase his testosterone levels. And, just as fortunately, there is now a growing body of evidence to lend redence to the idea of supplementing testosterone in older men.

In terms of sexual functioning, testosterone supplementation has been shown in multiple studies to improve both libido and erection capability.[29-31] Other studies have shown that supplemental testosterone can also alleviate many of the other symptoms of andropause, including depression, loss of energy and LDL cholesterol levels, which are often a marker of heart disease.[32,33]

Testosterone supplementation can also help reverse the potentially devastating effects of sarcopenia and osteoporosis. Supplemental testosterone has been shown to increase bone mass of the lumbar spine in elderly men.[34] A study done in 1995 showed that testosterone given to six men aged 64-to-69 who had low testosterone levels caused a measurable increase in skeletal muscle protein synthesis and strength.[35] A more recent study examined the effects of testosterone supplementation on 10 men 60-to-78 years in age, in a double-blind trial.[36] The results showed that testosterone supplementation increased fat-free mass, improved exercise endurance time and improved balance. Until anti-aging researchers finally figure out the secrets of aging, none of us can stop the advance of time, and with it, andropause. However, what we can do is treat ourselves with respect by eating a wholesome, organically based diet, exercising on a regular basis and taking supplements like those discussed above which can stop the hands of time from taking away our vitality and zest for life.

Dr. Edward R. Rosick is a board-certified (in both Preventive and Holistic Medicine) physician and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Pennsylvania State University, and is the author of numerous health and wellness-related articles.


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