Although doctors have been openly advocating testosterone or testosterone hormone therapy for both men and women who suffer from its deficiency, many of us are too shy or scared to opt for it. This might be due to the negative press that is associated with the testosterone hormone, but can we depend on tabloids these days? HealthHearty clears the air about the misconceptions associated with testosterone.
Though testosterone is often associated with masculinity, not many know that it is also an important hormone for women. In fact, a healthy young woman produces almost 300 micro grams of testosterone every day.
Testosterone is big news these days. Keeping aside the fact that it is one of the most important hormones secreted by the human body, it is usually gracing tabloid covers for all the wrong reasons. Thanks to the infamous doping scandals associated with Olympic athletes like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the testosterone hormone is now considered the forbidden hormone.
What testosterone really does is help the body make essential proteins that help perform certain important bodily functions. In adults, it is essential for normal sexual functions, healthy sperm production, and muscle development. New evidence also suggests that testosterone is extremely important to keep diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in control. Also those with normal levels of testosterone tend to live longer, and be happier than others. So why is everyone so confused and scared of testosterone? Let’s bust some common myths associated with the testosterone hormone.
Common Misconceptions About Testosterone
Myth :Testosterone is a steroid, and dangerous.
Yes, testosterone is a steroid, but it is not dangerous the way the media projects it to be. The word ‘steroid’ defines an organic fat-soluble compound that has 17 carbon atoms, structured in four distinct rings. It might come as a shock, but the human body is already loaded with many other steroids like progesterone, cortisol, estrogen, and cholesterol. In the world of sports, when an athlete is accused of ‘doping’ or ‘taking steroids’, both terms point to the ‘Anabolic Steroid Hormone’ which is synthetically designed to build muscle and bone. However, there is no scientific evidence showing the dangers of testosterone usage even in high concentrations.
Myth :Testosterone makes you taller.
There is a little truth associated with this myth. The testosterone hormone will make you tall, only if it is administered during the pubescent years. This is because the long bones (thigh, upper arm, forearm, and lower leg) in the body stop growing after puberty. During adolescence, the cartilage cells found in the growth plates or epiphyseal plates divide and increase in number. These newly formed cells absorb calcium from food, and develop it into bone, thus increasing the bone’s length. When puberty ends, these cartilage cells stop growing, and the growth plates are converted into bone. Now that the plates are fused, the bones can no longer increase in length.
Myth :Using testosterone is illegal.
As mentioned before, testosterone is an important hormone present in all males, and is responsible for the development of the male genitalia, physical changes that come along with puberty, and other functions like sperm production, sex drive, muscle tone, and bone health. It is completely legal to take testosterone, but with a physician’s prescription. Various sports committees have strict rules regarding the administration of testosterone, as it is known to influence the natural performance of athletes.
Myth :Testosterone gives men gynecomastia.
This myth too, that testosterone gives men gynecomastia or male breasts, has a certain amount of truth associated with it. It is a known fact that the body secretes testosterone naturally, but as soon as you introduce more testosterone in your system, the body also increases its estrogen levels to ensure that the excess testosterone doesn’t harm it. However, there have been instances where the excess estrogen levels get accumulated in the male breast tissue, stimulating the growth of proteins that cause gynecomastia.
Myth :Testosterone causes hoarseness and voice changes.
The most common causes of hoarseness are allergies, vocal cord polyps, chemical laryngitis, reflux esophagitis, mucosal tears, and antibiotics. It is a common health problem, and affects almost everyone at a certain point. There is no scientific evidence that proves that testosterone can cause hoarseness, and there is no physiological mechanism that allows it to do so. There were a few anecdotal reports filed that stated an association between Danazol (testosterone) and voice change. However, they were proven unreliable, when an experiment showed 24 adults taking 600 mg of Danazol every day for 3 to 6 months showed no vocal problems.
Myth :Testosterone causes prostate cancer.
There are two popular rumors that tied testosterone to prostate cancer. The first rumor was born in the early 1940s, in which men diagnosed with prostate cancer showed some improvement after they were castrated. The other belief was derived from the use of Lupron – a medication used to treat metastatic or advanced spread of prostate cancer. This drug caused the testosterone levels to decrease by shutting off the signals through which the brain communicates with the testicles, and interestingly also caused the tumors to shrink.
First of all, there is no conclusive proof that can establish any link between prostate cancer and testosterone. Moreover, treating men with testosterone therapy hasn’t caused any damage to the prostate either. According to clinical trials conducted by Abraham Morgentaler, MD, FACS, of the Harvard Medical School, men with high or low levels of testosterone in their bodies are not vulnerable to prostate cancer.
Myth :Testosterone is bad for the heart.
On the contrary, the testosterone hormone is considered extremely essential, and is known to have a positive effect on metabolism, lean body mass, and lipid panels of men and women. Physicians have also used testosterone to treat and prevent diabetes and other cardiovascular complications on various occasions. It is known to stimulate healthy blood flow by widening the blood vessels, and to strengthen the immune system.
Myth :Testosterone promotes aggression and violence.
It is a common belief that people who have high testosterone levels are prone to aggression and violence; this is nothing but a myth. There exists no such evidence that can prove that testosterone causes road rage or any type of violent or unpredictable behavior. On the contrary, people with low testosterone hormone levels often suffer from mood swings and irritability, which can be corrected by testosterone supplements. In fact, it has been observed that people who have normal levels of testosterone appeared to be quite rational in their approach.
Myth :Decrease in testosterone levels is normal in aging men.
It is true that testosterone levels in the body decline naturally as we age, however, physicians estimate that hypogonadism (also known as low testosterone) is one of the prime reasons for the shortage of testosterone in young adults. Hypogonadism causes low sexual drive, irritability, fatigue, and energy loss. Hence, if you are experiencing these symptoms frequently, it is time to pay the doctor a visit.
Myth :Testosterone is a male hormone.
Most women believe that testosterone only concerns men. Yes, testosterone is a male hormone, but even women produce it; it plays an important role during puberty, and helps form the secondary sexual characteristics. In women, the testosterone hormone is produced in the ovaries, fatty tissues, and adrenal glands. As they age, the body’s capacity to produce testosterone declines, which leads to different physical and behavioral changes. In fact, the body produces almost 50% less testosterone of what it originally produces when it hits menopause.
So there you go, testosterone is not that harmful for the body as it is perceived to be, and now that medical science has started documenting its positive effects, it is time to ignore the myths and face reality.