7 Things to Know About Testosterone

  • man in field
    More Than a Male Sex Hormone
    Testosterone is usually thought of as a male sex hormone, but it's much more than that. It plays a role in many parts of the body, including the bones, blood, muscles and brain. And women make it, too, although in smaller quantities than men. How might this versatile hormone be affecting your health?

  • man holding football
    1. Testosterone brings out the man in males.
    Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men. At puberty, it makes the male sex organs grow, and it also leads to the development of facial and body hair, a deeper voice, and larger muscles. Later in life, men need this hormone to produce enough sperm to father children.

  • happy couple in 20s
    2. It promotes the sex drive of both sexes.
    Testosterone helps maintain a healthy sex drive in both men and women. Men with low testosterone are sometimes treated with a replacement hormone, and that may help restore their desire for sex. However, this may have dangerous side effects and is not approved by the FDA unless the low testosterone is caused by a disease. Researchers are still studying whether taking testosterone is safe and effective for women.

  • Runner doing stretching exercise
    3. Testosterone affects your total health.
    Although testosterone is called a sex hormone, it affects much more than reproduction. For example, in men, it helps maintain strong bones and control the production of red blood cells. However, the benefits of taking testosterone to counteract the normal decrease associated with aging are questionable. The evidence suggests that risks probably outweigh benefits in this situation. The role of testosterone in women's health is less well understood, but receptors for it are found throughout the female body.

  • Man exercising
    4. You can have too much of a good thing.
    You hear a lot about low T, but "high T" can spell trouble, too. Abnormally high testosterone may be a sign of adrenal gland disease, testicular cancer in men, or ovarian cancer or cysts in women. If your doctor suspects a problem, your testosterone level can be checked with a blood test.

  • man rising from bed
    5. Testosterone may rise and fall daily.
    In men younger than 50, the level of testosterone in their blood may vary quite a bit throughout the day. It's generally highest in the morning and lowest at night. For this reason, when younger men get a blood test to check their testosterone, it's usually performed between 7 and 10 a.m.

  • Slide 5: Social: Men's Health Week: Top 10 Men’s Health Concerns
    6. It doesn't always make people aggressive.
    Testosterone affects the brain, and that, in turn, may influence behavior. Studies show that people with more of the hormone tend to want to dominate social situations. When their social status is threatened, testosterone may lead to competition or aggression. But in a nonthreatening situation, it may prompt generosity instead.

  • Diet Can Make a Difference
    7. Testosterone is linked to liking spicy food.
    Men with higher levels of testosterone tend to eat more hot sauce, based on a study from the University of Grenoble-Alpes in France. Past research had shown that a penchant for spicy food is more common in people who are aggressive, dominant and daring. Testosterone may fuel this type of behavior.

7 Things to Know About Testosterone

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  1. Some Like It Hot: Testosterone Predicts Laboratory Eating Behavior of Spicy Food. L Begue et al. Physiology and Behavior. 2015;139:375-7.
  2. Testosterone Inhibits Trust but Promotes Reciprocity. M.A.S. Boksem et al. Psychological Science. 2013;24(11):2306-14.
  3. Testosterone Therapy in Women: Myths and Misconceptions. R. Glaser and C. Dimitrakakis. Maturitas. 2013;74:230-4.
  4. Can We Prevent Aging? National Institute on Aging, January 22, 2015. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/can-we-prevent-aging
  5. Female Sexual Dysfunction. Endocrine Society's Hormone Health Network, December 2012. http://www.hormone.org/questions-and-answers/2012/female-sexual-dysfunction
  6. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Fact Sheet. U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Women's Health, December 23, 2014. http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html
  7. Testosterone. American Association for Clinical Chemistry, November 13, 2012. http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/testosterone/tab/test
  8. Testosterone Information. Food and Drug Administration, December 11, 2014. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm161874...
  9. The Many Roles of Testosterone. M. Irwig. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, undated. http://www.empoweryourhealth.org/magazine/vol2_issue3/The-many-roles-of-testosterone
  10. What Does Testosterone Do? Hormone Health Network (Endocrine Society), January 2014. http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/what-do-hormones-do/what-does-testosterone-do
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Last Review Date: 2019 Apr 6
Explore Low Testosterone
  • You’ve probably seen commercials on TV addressing the symptoms of low testosterone, often called “Low-T”. Testosterone is a hormone responsible for male development, though it’s also present in lesser amounts in women. Produced mainly in the testicles, testosterone plays a role in hair and muscle growth, bone density, libido, sperm production, and red blood cell formation.
    September 30, 2016
  • Testosterone is the defining hormone for boys and men. It's responsible for male traits. Your body starts making testosterone when you're still in the womb. Testosterone production rises until about age 17. Then it starts to slowly fall in middle age. By age 80, your testosterone level will be half of what it once was. However, not having enough testosterone can affect you at any age.
    June 28, 2016
  • There can be bothersome symptoms of low T, but not all men with low T need treatment.
    June 27, 2016
  • The effects of low T are not just part of getting older. Talk to your doctor if you have any of these sexual or non-sexual symptoms.
    June 17, 2016
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