Did You Know Obesity in Men Lowers Testosterone Production?

If you needed to buy a bigger-sized belt recently, watch out, because a man’s waist circumference can predict a testosterone deficiency. In fact, every one-point increase in BMI is associated with a 2% decrease in testosterone, a number that adds up to a significant drop in testosterone in men who are obese.

Our team here at Bay Surgical Weight Loss is dedicated to helping every patient achieve optimal health. We perform bariatric procedures to help you lose weight, and we also monitor your overall health and offer support for all the issues you face, including low testosterone.

We’ve learned that most of our patients don’t realize their weight is a major cause of hormone imbalances, including low testosterone in men. We put together this information to help you learn about the association between obesity and low testosterone.

Multiple causes of low testosterone

Low testosterone levels cause a variety of distressing symptoms, from low sex drive and erectile dysfunction, to loss of muscle mass and strength, infertility, and trouble with concentration and memory.

All men face a gradual decline in testosterone as they get older. After the age of 30 or 40, they typically lose 1% of their total testosterone every year.

In addition to normal age-related changes, men can develop low testosterone when their testicles don’t produce a normal amount. This condition, called hypogonadism, can be caused by:

  • Pituitary gland disorders
  • Excessive iron in your blood
  • Mumps during adolescence or adulthood
  • Injury to the testicles
  • Cancer treatment
  • Inflammatory disease
  • Medications, especially opioids

Most men don’t realize that there’s one more important cause of low testosterone: obesity.

The association between obesity and low testosterone

Obesity is known to be a major cause of low testosterone, also called hypogonadism, yet the biological interactions between the two are complex. The experts are still working to pinpoint the exact reason why obesity affects testosterone, but they’ve identified multiple factors that contribute to the problem.

For example, when hormones travel through your bloodstream, they’re attached to proteins called globulins. It turns out that obese men have fewer globulins, so less testosterone is transported to tissues.

Proinflammatory biochemicals produced by fat cells suppress an important regulator of hormones, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, which in turn decreases testosterone production.

And enzymes from fat cells metabolize testosterone into estrogen, leading to a decline in testosterone.

The bottom line is that obesity may be a more important risk factor for low testosterone than age and other chronic diseases.

Obesity and low testosterone by the numbers

One study revealed that 32% of obese men have low testosterone, compared with 7% of nonobese men. Others report that 50% of obese men have low testosterone.

The problem isn’t limited to a particular age group. Between the ages of 14 to 20, men who are obese have significantly lower testosterone compared to men in the same age range who are not obese.

The decline in testosterone is also considerable — obese men have 30% lower total testosterone than normal.

Health complications of low testosterone and obesity

When you’re obese and have low testosterone, your risk for health complications skyrockets. In addition to affecting muscle mass and muscle strength, low testosterone can cause mild anemia, osteoporosis, and high cholesterol.

Beyond the biochemicals that affect testosterone, fat cells also produce other hormones and substances that impact your metabolism, affect organs, and trigger body-wide inflammation.  

As a result, obesity increases your risk of developing chronic medical problems, such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

It’s important to know that some combinations of health problems, such as obesity and diabetes, increase your risk for low testosterone more than obesity alone.

Treating obesity and low testosterone

Low testosterone is treated with hormone replacement therapy. As the hormone is restored back to normal levels, problems such as low sex drive, fatigue, and loss of muscle are reversed and health complications are prevented.

Replacing testosterone helps you lose weight, but it’s not a weight loss treatment. For this reason, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American College of Endocrinology recommend that men who are obese and have low testosterone should receive testosterone replacement therapy and weight loss interventions.

Losing weight also boosts testosterone levels. It only takes a moderate weight loss to improve testosterone and weight loss greater than 15% results in a significant increase.

If you live in the Tampa Bay area and want to learn more about the comprehensive bariatric and weight loss services available at Bay Surgical Weight Loss, call one of our offices in St. Petersburg to make an appointment.

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