In addition to discovering and codifying the theory of relativity, physicist Albert Einstein coined some brilliant, pithy statements, including the admonition to make problems as simple as possible… but not any simpler.

Testosterone researchers and journalists have failed to heed Einstein, however. One unfortunate consequence of the way in which our society communicates the benefits (and side effects) of medications is that, collectively, people tend to oversimplify biological systemtestosterone1

Many men, for instance, have likely heard positive reports about testosterone therapy and developed the following simple mental understanding:

  • Low testosterone levels
  • Lead to weakness/low energy/low libido/health problems
  • So if you take extra testosterone
  • You will feel more energetic and younger/higher libido/more industrious.

This reasoning sounds like common sense, but it leads to three dangerous assumptions:

Dangerous Assumption #1. There is a direct relationship between testosterone levels and health.

Dangerous Assumption #2. Testosterone therapy seems to be able to improve several body systems; therefore, it must be “generally healthy” for all body systems.

Dangerous Assumption #3. This drug therapy appears to work for XYZ people in such-and-such trials; therefore, the results are generally applicable to the entire male population.

Patients, researchers and doctors all have fallen victim to these assumptions. Yet the science does not describe a linear relationship between testosterone levels and health. For instance, men who overdose on testosterone supplementation ironically can see their own endogenous (internally produced) testosterone levels plummet, since the body likes to preserve homeostasis. In other words, the body balances its hormone levels.

If a man gets a lot of testosterone through injections or patches, his body might recognize this overabundance and shut down his internal production to compensate. This process, in turn, can cause a whole raft of problems in the body, including, ironically, the same problems that the testosterone was supposed to fix (e.g. loss of libido, low energy, hormonal imbalances, etc).

testosterone9The next post will address an even subtler (and rarely recognized) problem with the conventional way of thinking about the risks and benefits of this therapy.

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