Older Men Unlikely to Benefit from Using Testosterone Gel

Vaginal Microbicide Gel against HIV TransmissionA reduction in hormones is something usually associated with older women whose oestrogen levels drop after the menopause. However, older men may also suffer from a drop in their testosterone levels as they age, a condition known as hypogonadism, and some are turning to testosterone supplements or replacements to top up their levels.

Now new evidence is emerging that using testosterone gel is unlikely to produce any long-lasting health benefits for men over 60. An US study found that the gel can offer minor improvements in men’s muscle-to-fat ratio but no other benefits such as improving overall ability to move, flexibility and endurance.

The study was carried out at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and involved men with low to normal testosterone levels. All were at least 60 years old and able to function at a reasonably high level at the start of the study, which involved the use of a testosterone gel called Androgel. The US Food & Drug Administration has approved the gel’s use for men who don’t produce enough testosterone.

The Colorado study set out to examine if treating healthy, older men with testosterone could stop the loss of strength associated with hypogonadism and also slow body changes. The study involved 167 older, each of whom was randomly assigned either a testosterone gel or a hormone-free placebo gel to use daily along with a program of strength training three times a week.

The findings showed that the men using testosterone posed a 2lb decrease in fat mass and a 2lb increase in muscle mass and, while exercise alone improved body composition, there were no other obvious benefits from testosterone and strength training. The testosterone gel did not help the men improve functions such as moving freely from a sitting position or climbing stairs.

The research suggests that men who are generally healthy are unlikely to see any real benefits from using a testosterone gel and concludes that its use may not be appropriate for many of the men currently using it. The study suggests further research into the effects of long-term testosterone supplementation for more elderly and frail men should be undertaken.

The study was reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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