There is a sudden increase in the number of clinics and infomercials heralding the many benefits of testosterone therapy in men. But experts are warning that the effects should be considered with enough caution. Some of the earlier studies had shown that testosterone may increase the muscle mass and reduce some of the body fat.
Over the years, people have started believing that replacing the natural decrease in testosterone levels may help men to be stronger and healthier during old age. In a study conducted by Australian researchers, when otherwise healthy men were given with testosterone some of the muscle mass and fat gain associated with aging could be reversed. All the participants in the study were above 55-years-old, but were not deficient in testosterone.
According to this study, replacing testosterone may help men, especially those who are deficient in testosterone as it may improve the strength of bones and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. But these benefits may be good only for those who are deficient in this hormone.
Marc R. Blackman, MD, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, warns that no other study has shown that the therapy is beneficial for otherwise healthy men by making them healthier. Moreover, improvement in muscle mass need not improve their ability to perform routine activities like climbing stairs or carrying heavy weight. “No study has proved the meaningful effectiveness of this therapy and further, long-term safety information is also lacking," says Blackman.
“When these proofs — improved strength and performance — are not available, the real benefit of testosterone therapy is only cosmetic," adds Blackman. Most of the experts are worried about the increasing recommendations and demands for this therapy. These prescriptions are apart from the online purchases, which may have been initiated by studies like the one conducted by Australian researchers.
Glenn R. Cunningham, MD, a professor of medicine at Baylor College in Houston, also agrees to the fact that testosterone therapy is beneficial in men who are deficient in the hormone. But the benefits are still unknown in men who are aging and have a natural reduction in the amount of the hormone. “Most of the studies conducted with this in focus are small and cannot provide adequate information regarding the effectiveness and safety of the therapy," says Cunningham.
Researchers including Cunningham and Blackman are trying to initiate a large scale study to see whether the drug can be managed effectively so that men do get the benefits without any associated risks. Blackman points out that the European attitude of accepting aging as a normal part of the life cycle is good rather than giving much importance to appearance.