Friday, May 4, 2012

Lack of testosterone makes men fat and diabetic

Testosterone is a well-known male hormone that influences stereotypical features such as aggressive behaviour and muscle growth. Less known is the fact that testosterone is needed during the earliest phases of embryonic stages to divert development from female to male. Therefore, testosterone is an absolute necessity for males, even though females also require it to some extent. Scientists from the University of Edinburgh have discovered that the hormone does more than just let males be male. A lack of testosterone has been associated with increased risk of developing diabetes and increase in body weight.

Scientists performed experiments in mice, that have a similar testosterone balance as human beings. They looked specifically at the androgen receptor present on the cellular surface, which is tasked with sensing hormonal signals to relay them inside the cell in order to induce behavioural changes. Without the receptors to accept the message sent by testosterone, there is no asserted effect. In addition, the researchers looked at what happened with blood sugar levels and body fat during their experiments
Bottled manliness.
Mice that do not have functioning androgen receptors in fat tissue were found to have increased body weight, indicating that the testosterone signal affects the way the body stores fat. Additionally, these mice were at higher risk of developing insulin resistance, which is a symptom in diabetes: if insulin cannot do its job, the body can no longer cope with rising blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance was attributed to a particular protein, called RBP4, that appears to be produced in higher quantities when testosterone cannot assert its effect.

It has been noted that older men have a higher risk of developing diabetes. While this may be attributed to the fact that it takes time for insulin resistance to result in full-blown diabetes, it may also have something to do with declining testosterone levels. It is known that the hormonal levels decrease over time, which gives older men a tad bit more female characteristics. Because of the newfound role of testosterone in diabetes, it is worthwhile to investigate the effect of ageing.

It is clear that testosterone does not merely result in development of the male body or its corresponding behaviour, but that it also has an important role in metabolism. When testosterone can no longer send its messages to fat cells, it disturbs regulation of body weight and metabolism. Because insulin resistance was linked to RBP4, it may be worthwhile to treat males suffering from low testosterone levels with a drug that inhibits this protein, thereby reducing the risk of acquiring diabetes. 

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