It’s no secret that the privilege of aging comes with inevitable declines in health. As men age, they also see a decline in testosterone levels. New research tries to determine whether testosterone treatments can give men back some of their lost vitality.
A team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine conducted seven Testosterone Trials (TTrials), which were designed to see if testosterone therapy could relieve the symptoms of withdrawal from the hormone.
To conduct the study, the team enrolled 790 men, ages 65 and older, at 12 sites across America. All of the participants had lower testosterone levels than young healthy men, low sexual function, difficulty walking or low vitality.
The men were randomly selected to receive either a testosterone gel or placebo gel, which was applied daily for a year. The trial was double blind, meaning neither the researchers nor participants knew who was taking which gel. Researchers measured testosterone levels periodically for a year and monitored prostate and cardiovascular problems.
The research team found that among the men with low sexual function, testosterone treatment modestly improved sexual activity, sexual desire and erectile function compared to the placebo. Among men in all three trials, walking speed and distance also improved with the testosterone treatment.
Though testosterone treatment didn’t significantly affect fatigue symptoms, men in all three groups who received the testosterone reported slight improvements in mood, energy and depressive symptoms.
The study was led by Dr. Peter J. Snyder from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
“The results of the TTrials show for the first time that testosterone treatment of older men who have unequivocally low testosterone levels does have some benefit,” Dr. Snyder said in the press release. “However, decisions about testosterone treatment for these men will also depend on the results of the other four trials.”
According to the study, researchers found few adverse effects from testosterone treatment. The authors emphasized that larger and longer studies are needed to assess the risk of testosterone treatment in older men.
Researchers said that older men seeking testosterone treatment should consult with a physician.
The results for the first three elements—sexual function, walking and vitality—were reported February 18 in theNew England Journal of Medicine. Results for other outcomes, including cardiovascular, bone density, cognition, and anemia, will be reported in future papers.
The study was funded in part by The National Institute on Aging-The National Institute of Health.
The authors disclosed several potential conflicts of interest, including that Dr. Snyder reported receiving consulting fees from Watson Laboratories. Co-author Dr. Bhasin received fees to serve on advisory boards from Eli Lily and Sanofi, consulting fees from AbbVie and grant support from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lily, AbbVie and Novartis.