Estrogen, 'female' hormone is especially important for men
Hormone found essential for sex drive and fat control
Estrogen is typically considered a "female" hormone, regulating menstrual cycles and attending to things that are unique to women. It turns out that estrogen is just as important for men - researchers say the hormone fights against belly fat in men and can regulate the sex drive.
The fact that low estrogen weakens male bones, as it does in post-menopausal women, is a medical given.
Researchers also found that Low estrogen is also a big contributor to sexual dysfunction and low libido, which is usually blamed solely on low testosterone.
These findings could change the way doctors prescribe hormones for men, according to Brad Anawalt, an endocrinologist and vice chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington. He calls the findings "a blockbuster, a mind bender for the general public and many scientists."
In detailing the process, scientists say that men make about 80 percent of their estrogen through the conversion of testosterone into an estrogen by an enzyme called aromatase. When testosterone, the "male" hormone drops, so does estrogen. Low testosterone itself is linked to declines in lean muscle mass, muscle size and strength, according to the study.
The fact that low estrogen weakens male bones, as it does in post-menopausal women, is a medical given. Most effects of "low T," or hypogonadism, have been blamed on low testosterone itself, helping fuel a more than 500 percent spike in prescriptions from 1993 to 2000.
Concerns over possible harmful side effects notwithstanding, the percentage of American men over 40 receiving testosterone approximately tripled to nearly three percent of the population from 2001 to 2011.
Normal levels of testosterone is decided on the mean levels found in the general population. The new study, however revealed that a healthy range should really depend upon the individual body tissue or system. What's right for one is not right for everyone.
When testosterone begins to drop for man as soon as they reach the age of 35, the first thing affected is sexual function, which is on account of low testosterone and estrogen. Further drops begin to affect fat metabolism due to low estrogen. Muscle mass along with strength begin to fall as the level is depleted.
Therefore, men with these medical complaints are handed prescriptions for testosterone, which Anawalt likens to "sprinkling on table salt."
But now, "if he has a T level of 300, this study suggests that his loss of strength is not related to testosterone level, he's just [age] 50," Anawalt said.
"If you come in and I say, 'Oh, God, fat's accumulating on this guy,' it's not enough. That fat is accumulating because of a drop in estrogen."
A doctor may now want to prescribe extra testosterone as a way to boost estrogen.
The study used 400 healthy men between 20 and 50 years old. Divided into two groups, all test subjects were given a drug to stop their production of testosterone and estrogen. Some men in one group were then given a placebo testosterone replacement product, while others were given increasing doses of the real thing.
The men who received replacement doses of testosterone, but whose estrogen production was blocked, showed significant increases in three key body fat measures as well as erectile dysfunction and low sexual desire.
Because those effects are related to osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, the "billion dollar question" is whether older men should be given testosterone replacement to increase both their T levels and estrogen levels as part of preventive medicine.
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