Several of my male patients who are troubled with low testosterone levels have also been found to have type 2 diabetes. In fact, the two conditions share many of the same symptoms (see more below) like erectile dysfunction and fatigue, which are usually symptoms that bring male patients in to see me. Balancing the two hormones of insulin and testosterone are not only important to a man’s sexual function but also to his overall good health – in fact, his life may even depend on it.
Low Testosterone and Type 2 Diabetes – Who’s At Risk?
A new study out of SUNY Buffalo has shown that one-third of men with low testosterone levels have also been found to be type 2 diabetics. As a result of this new study, low testosterone is now considered a complication of type 2 diabetes. The two hormones are governed by the pituitary gland and dependent on each other: adequate testosterone levels help reduce body fat and utilize insulin optimally and when insulin levels are too high testosterone falls.
Men at risk for type 2 diabetes and/or low testosterone are generally men over 45 when testosterone levels start to decline naturally. If a man is carrying extra body fat, his testosterone levels will drop even more. This puts him at a greater risk for developing diabetes, both type 1 and 2, and subsequent heart disease, stroke, or other life-threatening vascular conditions.
However, younger men who are not overweight can also develop low testosterone. The problem starts, apparently, not in the testes where testosterone is made, but in the pituitary gland where LH, luteinizing hormone, is made. LH gives the testes the signal to make testosterone. Simply put, if LH does not send the signal, or the signal is erratic, adequate testosterone won’t be made.
What Are The Symptoms?
As I mentioned above, both low testosterone and type 2 diabetes share many of the same symptoms. Although a large number of type 2 diabetic men have low testosterone, not all men who have low testosterone will develop type 2 diabetes. Here are some symptoms they share:
- Erectile dysfunction
- High body fat –especially belly fat
- Low muscle mass
- Fatigue, depression, irritability
- Poor sleep
What Are The Causes?
As I tell my patients, low testosterone levels can be caused by nutritional factors.
More and more xenoestrogens in our food and water supply contribute to hormone havoc in both men and women. This can result in high body fat and low T levels in men. Lack of adequate nutrients like zinc, the B vitamins, too low protein and cholesterol, life stresses, too much burning the candle at both ends working or partying, lack of sleep can all contribute to low testosterone.
Interestingly, many of these same nutritional factors, can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, which is at epidemic levels in the United States today. Statistics show that 18.2 million Americans have type 2 diabetes!
Right in step with this recent low-T/type 2 diabetes research, previous statistics have also shown that type 2 diabetes has affected men nearly 2:1 over women, with Native American men in the highest risk group! In my practice alone, men over age 40 frequently test with higher hemoglobin A1c levels than women.
How To Avoid Low T and Possibly Type 2 Diabetes
The first step in avoiding low testosterone levels and/or possibly developing type 2 diabetes is prevention. Here are some things I recommend:
1. Testosterone/A1c testing: Go to your doctor and get 2 simple blood tests, one for testosterone levels and the other for hemoglobin A1c levels. If one or both of them are out of their normal ranges, then you and your doctor can decide how to treat the situation in a way best for you.
2. Watch your nutrition – Include high zinc foods like pumpkin seeds, oysters, optimal protein, and B vitamins and stay clear of environmental estrogens that leach into your food. Don’t cut saturated fat too much as you need it to make cholesterol what your body uses to build testosterone. About 10-20 grams of saturated fat a day is adequate.
3. Maintain Stable Weight – Too much weight gain causes you to hold too much estrogen in your system as it stores in fat. This throws your testosterone levels out of whack and in turn causes your insulin levels to rise and store even more body fat, especially around your waist.
4. Exercise – Regular aerobic and weight training exercise is crucial for keeping weight and blood sugar levels normal. It also helps you reduce stress and aids sleep, two factors which can contribute to low testosterone.
Of course, none of us can control Mother Nature, and there may be other factors that may predispose you to getting low testosterone levels and/or diabetes such as genetics or medications you may be taking for other conditions. However, getting regular testosterone/A1c blood tests and following the preventative recommendations listed here can keep you ahead of the low-T/type 2 diabetes eight-ball!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Diabetes and Low Testosterone, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/12/01/health/webmd/main658541.shtml
Low Testosterone in Type 2 Diabetes Hidden Epidemic http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/index.php?option=com_content&view-article&id=2324