Testosterone Supplements

Testosterone is a hormone known for its role in conferring masculinity. Sexual performance, muscle mass accumulation and even the growth of chest hair are all influenced by testosterone. However, like all hormones, testosterone functions best when it is at a level that is neither too high nor too low.

About Testosterone Supplements

Testosterone supplements are available by prescription only and can come in many forms. They can be oral pills, skin patches, injections or a topical gel. These different delivery methods are all aimed at getting synthetic testosterone into the bloodstream to increase total testosterone levels.

Certain over-the-counter herbal supplements are advertised as natural testosterone boosters. These substances do not contain actual testosterone, but in theory, they induce the body to produce more testosterone on its own. These products, however, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the same way as other drugs. Some of these boosters may have little effect on testosterone levels, and any that do increase testosterone could do more harm than good if they’re taken without the supervision of a doctor.

Benefits of Testosterone Supplements

For young boys with a testosterone deficiency (a condition called male hypogonadism), using supplements to increase testosterone to normal levels is essential for proper development. The treatments are given in early adolescence to imitate the normal increase in testosterone levels that boys experience at the onset of puberty. Without testosterone supplements, these patients may fail to mature sexually and physically. Importantly, testosterone supplements do not repair infertility that may result from hypogonadism.

Supplements for testosterone may also be beneficial for adult men with hypogonadism. They can often alleviate erectile dysfunction, depression and bone loss, all of which are associated with low testosterone. For men with normal testosterone levels, however, testosterone supplements may have limited benefits and could result in abnormally high levels of testosterone.

Risks of Testosterone Supplements

Taking testosterone supplements doesn’t come without risks. The supplements have been known to:

  • Cause damage to the liver (usually only with oral testosterone supplements)
  • Increase the frequency or severity of sleep apnea
  • Increase the number of red blood cells to unhealthy levels (a condition called polycythemia)
  • Promote enlargement of the prostrate.

Testosterone supplements may also cause some of the symptoms associated with high testosterone levels, including acne and breast development. The decision to take testosterone supplements needs to weigh the benefits and risks of such treatment.

Testosterone Supplements for Women

Women also produce testosterone, and their levels gradually start to decline in the years preceding menopause. If testosterone levels become low, women may experience a decrease in sexual desire and overall energy. Testosterone is sometimes prescribed to women seeking treatment for these symptoms, and, for some women, the results have been positive. However, just as for men, testosterone supplements may have side effects in women, such as acne and increased facial hair. Testosterone is also not recommended for women with a history of breast cancer because it may increase their risk for reoccurrence of the disease.

Resources

Margo, K. and Winn, R. (2006). Testosterone treatments: Why, when and how? Retrieved January 26, 2010 from the American Academy of Family Physicians Web site: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/0501/p1591.html.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2008). Male hypogonadism. Retrieved January 26, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/male-hypogonadism/DS00300/DSECTION=complications.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2008). Performance-enhancing drugs: Are they a risk to your health? Retrieved January 26, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/male-hypogonadism/DS00300/DSECTION=complications.

National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Dietary supplements: Background information. Retrieved January 26, 2010 from Office of Dietary Supplements Web site: http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/dietarysupplements.asp.

Pruthi, S. (n.d.). Menopause: Expert answers: Testosterone therapy in women: Does it boost sex drive? Retrieved January 26, 2010 from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/testosterone-therapy/AN01390.

Quillen, D. M. (2001). Effects of an over-the-counter supplement used by bodybuilders . Retrieved January 26, 2010 from the Medscape Web site: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/413844.

WebMD, LLC. (2008). Testosterone. Retrieved January 26, 2010 from the WebMD Web site: http://men.webmd.com/testosterone-15738.