Testosterone production is yet another area of your overall health that is directly impacted by high blood sugar levels.
Research continues to show two facts about the relationship between “low T” and insulin resistance:
- Men with low testosterone tend to be more insulin resistant.
- Men with significant insulin resistance tend to produce less testosterone.
So which came first? Or can both sides of the issues ignite the other issue equally?
Let’s take a look.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone — one of the sex hormones — is the hormone most attributed to a man’s masculinity. Women also produce testosterone but in much, much lower levels.
According to the American Urological Association, 2 out of 10 men above the age of 60 struggle with low testosterone levels. By age 70, that increases to 3 out of 10 men.
- Normal testosterone level: 300 to 1,000 ng/dL
- Low testosterone level: below 300 ng/dL
You can have your testosterone levels measured by your primary care doctor with a simple blood test.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Just because you haven’t been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes doesn’t mean your body isn’t struggling with increasing insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance develops when your body is unable to respond normally to your natural insulin production.
For some, this is largely the result of weight gain and unhealthy habits around food and exercise that dramatically increase the demand for insulin — and your body is unable to keep up with that demand. This is likely the case for approximately 40 percent of people with type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The remaining 60 percent are likely struggling with “gradual beta-cell dysfunction” which means your body is struggling to produce healthy beta-cells, which are produced by the pancreas and responsible for secreting insulin.
There is always a starting point — a diabetes diagnosis simply means your insulin resistance has persisted long enough that it has had a consistent and significant impact on your blood sugar levels.
Regardless of whether you fall into the 40 percent or 60 percent category, your body tries to keep up with the demand of insulin until it simply cannot, and blood sugar levels start rising which leads to an eventual diabetes diagnosis.
This process can take years which means your testosterone production could be quietly suffering as your body’s level of insulin resistance is quietly increasing, too.
How insulin resistance affects testosterone production
The understanding behind insulin resistance’s impact on your testosterone production is related to yet another hormone: luteinizing hormone.
Also referred to as “LH,” luteinizing hormone is produced by your pituitary gland and is primarily responsible for telling your testicles to produce testosterone.
Trouble begins with LH production when your blood sugars are persistently higher than normal. The higher your blood sugars are, the more your pituitary gland will struggle to produce LH.
Too little LH leads to too little testosterone. This is how high blood sugars can impact testosterone levels.
Now let’s look at it from the other side…
How low testosterone affects insulin resistance
Low testosterone levels can impact several parts of your body and health — including worsening your body’s sensitivity to insulin.
Low testosterone levels can cause you to:
- More easily lose muscle mass
- More easily gain body fat
- Difficulty getting/sustaining an erection
- Produce less semen
- Feel more lethargic
- Lose your hair
- Feel less interested in sex
- Feel more depressed
- ….become more insulin resistant!
An increase in body fat blunts your sensitivity to insulin.
A decrease in muscle mass reduces your body’s sensitivity to insulin.
These two things combined can easily lead to gradually increasing blood sugar levels — especially when combined with not-so-healthy habits around food and exercise.
The best thing you can do to protect your own testosterone levels is to stay active, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking, manage your alcohol intake, lose weight, and maintain healthy body weight.
If you suspect your testosterone levels are dropping despite healthy habits, talk to your healthcare team about having your levels tested and go from there!