Yes, we are the United States of America, and we enjoy, above all, the freedom to believe in the quick fix. Among our greatest hopes is that we can reverse aging. We do live longer and get to retire earlier, perpetuating tiresome claims that sixty is the new forty, say, or eighty the new sixty.
It is no surprise that America holds the key to the modern quest for eternal youth. After all, it was within our continental boundaries that Ponce De Leon searched in vain for the Fountain of Youth some 400 years ago. Virtually, all of its seekers were men in Ponce’s day and well beyond, proving that women were wise enough not to waste their time and energy on a quick fix to aging. And, as always, they outlived the men.
Once again, it’s the guys who have been fooled into believing that they can stave off old age, and the elixir flowing from the modern fountain is testosterone. According to Men’s Journal approximately 5.6 million American men are taking testosterone in some form, whether as a supplement or through more expansive (and expensive) testosterone therapy. If you are an American male in his forties, fifties and beyond, you have probably been tempted into believing that your expanding gut, dwindling energy and deteriorating muscle can all be remedied by testosterone. “Low T” has become the greatest gimmick in marketing and the force behind a multi-billion-dollar industry.
I’m not here to tell you it’s a hoax or even the opposite, that it can take years off your age, restore vitality, harden muscle and increase sex drive, as many claim who are marketing testosterone as a quick fix. The truth is that there is so much we don’t know about what ingesting testosterone via gel, shot or pill can do for or to the aging male. The Aug. 18 issue of Time magazine devoted its cover story to the testosterone industry and its impact under the heading “Manopause.”
It was certainly an informative piece and worth reading, telling both sides of the story, but its fundamental message is that there is still so much we do not know about Low T and T Therapy. In fact, we are not even clear about what Low T is from male to male and who would benefit from testosterone and who wouldn’t. If you are diagnosed with low testosterone levels, there is evidence that it can enhance the quality of your life. We lose testosterone as we grow older, which is a natural part of the aging process. Does that mean we should accept it as a natural part of the life cycle? Or should we be doing everything within our power to halt the so-called erosion of our manliness?
I can see multiple links between Low T and obesity. Modern marketing has introduced scientific, medical and nutritional approaches that promise a quick fix in both. The hard way takes time and patience, and you may not have enough of either. Exercise and diet may conquer obesity, as it apparently can in males with waning testosterone, but it could take months and years to get anywhere near where you want to be.
Testosterone is a steroid, but not an illegal one like the highly publicized anabolic-androgenic type, and as a supplement has been known to burn fat, build muscle and increase vitality and sexual performance. Symptoms of Low T may include depression, low energy, sleep apnea, loss of libido and the ubiquitous beer belly. The depression, I suppose, comes from not being able to sleep, have sex or bend over to tie your shoe. This only applies to a small segment of the population with genuine Low T, and as many as 80 percent of men over the age of 65 would not experience dramatic improvement in any of the aforementioned symptoms. Sorry, old guys. Exercise and healthy eating are still the best way to go for most of us.
On the other hand, there are some negatives aspects of T Therapy, as was previously the case with estrogen therapy for women. Again we’re scientifically in the infancy of learning about testosterone, and we should know a whole lot more over the next three to five years.
Getting back to the negatives, lab experiments indicate that testosterone can kill brain cells. You might say, if this holds up, that taking testosterone to build muscle and burn fat is a no-brainer. There seems to be a connection between too much T and osteoporosis, or bone deterioration. Then there is the connection to the always attractive man boobs. You can live with man boobs and keep your shirt on, but the potential for heart disease is a more serous matter. A 2010 study on the impact of T therapy had to be discontinued, when the group taking testosterone, not the placebo, began to experience a dramatically higher rate of cardiovascular problems. Law firms are increasingly suing T-dealers on behalf of clients with various health issues on the basis that they were not adequately apprised of the risks.
A key factor is that you genuinely need to have Low T, which requires significant testing from a specialist, and not because you have some of the symptoms previously noted. The need for an afternoon nap or loss of muscle tone are cases in point. Many of them are the consequence of aging and not taking care of ourselves.
We have a lot to learn about Low T before it gains our trust as a shortcut to restoring lost manliness and youthful vitality. Whether or not testosterone lives up to its hype, which is bombarding us in TV spots, magazine ads and on the internet, I have to agree with Gabriel F. Zambrano, blogging for pathtojustice.com:
“Low T is arguably the brainchild of modern marketing that appeals to the vanity and insecurities of middle age men searching to reconnect their inner Alpha Male.”