Testosterone is the crux of what makes men men; it's the "male hormone" that literally puts hair on your chest. Levels peak when you’re about 20, and slowly decrease as you age, about 1 percent each year when you get into your 30s. If you’re suffering from a drop in T, sometimes called hypogonadism, male menopause, and/or andropause, you can experience diminished energy, strength, stamina, libido, and weight gain. So it makes sense you'd want to do whatever it takes to get them back up again.
However, a new review of more than 156 clinical trials will make you think twice about supplementing your low T levels with prescription testosterone and methyltestosterone: When it comes to promoting good cardiovascular health and sexual function and boosting mood and cognition, at least, supplements don't provide any real benefit (and have known risks, researchers say).
In the review, published in PLOS One, researchers pored over eligible randomized controlled trials done between 1950 and 2016 in which testosterone was compared to a placebo—to see how either influenced the above health functions. (Researchers excluded studies about bodybuilding or including men with missing or damaged testicles.)
"Testosterone has been marketed to improve a number of conditions but for the vast majority, our review of the data shows that not one of these claims has adequate clinical trial support," study author Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, said in a press release.
The team concluded testosterone supplementation didn't have a remarkable influence on cardiovascular health; while some improvement was seen in reducing the risk factors and markers of cardiovascular events like heart failure, there's little proof it can have any real clinical benefit, nor were the benefits strong enough to be favored over a placebo. In regards to boosting sexual health and treating erectile dysfunction, testosterone was ineffective; it didn't show a consistent impact on raising libido either. Also, personality, psychological well-being, and mood weren't amplified by supplementation. And, while testosterone was found to consistently increase muscle strength, it didn't have any benefit on physical function in everyday life, like ease of climbing flights of stairs.
"Testosterone products are marketed for non-specific symptoms associated with normal aging, but testosterone is not a reasonable treatment for aging," Fugh-Berman says. (Read: Is Low Testosterone Just a Part of Getting Older?).
Talk to your doctor about whether or not you need supplementation and either way, raise your levels of testosterone naturally with these strategies and tips: