Contrary to popular belief, including that of a large majority of physicians, women need not only “female hormones” estrogen and progesterone but also testosterone. If you like to read about why men of all ages need youthful levels of testosterone, please read WHY MEN OF ALL AGES NEED TESTOSTERONE.
So, at what age do women benefit from healthy levels of testosterone? The answer is “at all ages”. Controlled studies demonstrated that increasing testosterone levels in aging women enhanced sexual drive. BUT low testosterone levels in women of ALL AGES seem to suppress libido and cause sexual dysfunction. Furthermore, the balancing of testosterone back to youthful levels in women has been shown to improve mood and feeling of wellbeing, energy levels, ability to increase muscle mass and weight control. It could also improve fatigue and low motivation.
Women produce testosterone, about 1/10 of men level, in adrenal glands and ovaries. After menopause, the testosterone levels decline along with the levels of estrogen and progesterone. However, the testosterone levels can dramatically fall sometimes to undetectable levels in pre-menopausal women.
New England Journal of Medicine published in 2000 a randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study showing that testosterone replacement in women who had total hysterectomy (and post-surgical low levels of testosterone) resulted in improved sexual function, mood and wellbeing. But how about women who still have intact uterus and ovaries? Studies done by Dr.Susan Davis in Australia showed testosterone benefit postmenopausal women or women with surgical menopause and suggested that younger women with low libido and sexual dysfunction plus low testosterone levels could benefit from testosterone replacement. Some of the younger women taking birth control pills could have low testosterone as a result of it. These recommendations were derived from extrapolating the results of the studies and from clinical experience but to date there are no studies done on women in their twenties or thirties.
Exercise and body composition, do they benefit from regulating the testosterone levels? Yes, studies show that testosterone replacement help women lose fat and increase muscle mass.
Let’s not forget that some studies suggest the testosterone replacement could help prevent heart disease. Some limited studies have suggested that high levels of testosterone could be linked to breast cancer, but the levels of testosterone and estrogen run together as testosterone could be a precursor of estrogen synthesis. A study done in 2000 on the effect of testosterone and tamoxifen on breast cell stimulation showed that the rapid-growth of breast cells exposed to estrogen was diminished when testosterone was added. Another study in 2003 showed the same conclusions.
How about increasing testosterone levels naturally? Resistance and endurance exercise (but not excessive) and DHEA replacement are interventions to be considered. For the role of DHEA in maintaining healthy testosterone levels and other important health benefits please read our “WHAT ABOUT DHEA” article.
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