By John Andrews Many men who have reached the prime of their life encounter insufficient testosterone levels. Commonly referred to…
The Primary Hormonal Key to Male Health
The primary key to everything male is maintenance of testosterone (T) production with age. Once this hormone’s blood plasma level drops below 500 ng/dl (nanograms per deciliter) there are profound changes in health, including loss of muscle mass, fat gain, poor glucose management, and loss of cognitive abilities, libido, energy production and immune function. Below 300 ng/dl there is rapid onset of several age-related maladies, including cancer, blocked arteries, blood clots, arthritis, dementia, impotence and others – aging accelerates considerably. Levels in our 20s are around 1100-900 ng/dl.
Fortunately there are specific supplements, many that have over a thousand years of practical use, which can increase testosterone production and reverse most of these effects. My opinion is that such supplements should be used before we ever turn to hormone replacement – it is far better to get our own production working well again than to add exogenous hormones, even bioidentical hormones. These supplements act in four pathways. First, they act to increase T production, second, to block its conversion to estrogen by inhibiting an enzyme called Aromatase, third, by reducing the level of a binding agent called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) to raise levels of free T. Only free T can increase anabolic and pro-sexual function. Fourth, they reduce conversion of T to dihydrotestosterone or DHT. DHT is related to baldness in both sexes, and prostate enlargement in men, and indirectly to heart disease. All four pathways need to be addressed to achieve the best outcome.
Finally, all these supplements will work better if we use weight training to induce muscle retention and growth as a lifelong practice. One key to boosting free T is boron; taking 10 mg/day increases free T and reduces estradiol in tested men. So both Aromatase and SHBG are lowered. Boron is also required for bone health; an added benefit.
Next on the list is the primary functional ingredient in raw oysters – zinc. Animals or men raised with insufficient zinc fail to develop sexually, and the mineral is required for testosterone (T) production, human growth hormone (HGH) production, and is required for healthy prostate function. Whenever extra zinc is supplemented, copper must be taken as well or copper deficiency will follow, so whatever zinc level is taken should be matched with about 1/15th this amount of copper. Most authorities limit zinc intake to under 60 mg/day, but the real issue is balance with copper.
Manganese is required for the pituitary gland in the brain to produce and secrete Luteinizing Hormone Releasing Hormone (LHRH), which in turn stimulates Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which stimulates testosterone production. Male animals deprived of dietary manganese lose all interest in females. Eating a plant-based diet with leafy greens, nuts and whole grains yields the best dietary intake, and values up to 15 mg/day are shown safe in trials.
Next, magnesium increases T levels in both sedentary and exercising men, but more in those who exercise, especially resistance training. It is strongly associated with all our anabolic (muscle building) hormone levels, including IGF-1 and HGH. The amounts that show results in human trials is 10 mg/kg of weight (155 lb male needs about 700 mg/day – this will typically produce the runs if taken at once; spread it out in multiple doses at meals, take with plenty of fiber, or use time released Jigsaw Magnesium).
Vitamin A together with Zinc boost HGH production and testicular production of T, but with age our ability to convert beta carotene to vitamin A declines, so a proper supplement should have a vitamina A complex including retinol, retinal and retinoic acid in addition to the precursor carotenoids normally found in food. Vitamin A is needed by the retina to healthy vision as well, and is linked to healthy longevity to boot.
Vitamin K is important for health for several reasons. It functions first to facilitate blood clotting so we don’t bleed to death. When that requirement is met, higher levels are important because the vitamin K complex is responsible for marshaling calcium into bones and teeth, and preventing its accumulation in soft tissues such as joints and arteries. After meeting that demand, yet higher levels stimulate the gonads to directly produce T. We don’t just need enough to insure blood clotting, which is where the RDA comes from, we need about 2 mg/day of the whole complex to meet all these needs.
Vitamin D – nothing works well in the body without adequate vitamin D; we should be taking 5000 IU/day minimum for optimal health. I take 15,000 IU/day (because I never see the sun) to keep my blood levels around 90 ng/ml – the 25-OH vitamin D test is required to know where you stand, but you can’t OD on 5000 IU/day. Without adequate vitamin D levels all these strategies will be blunted.
Most of these vitamins & minerals can be obtained from a decent multivitamin product, but my choice is Life Extension Mix from Life Extension Foundation; nothing comes even close to the completeness of this formulation.
Now let’s consider the herbal ingredients that are noted for boosting healthy T levels. Tribulus Terrestis was brought to fame by the Bulgarian athletes, and extracts such as the product Tribestan with 45% saponins definitely boost T levels. 750 – 1500 mg/day has been shown to work well. Ashwaganda (Withonia Somnifera) from traditional Ayurvedic medicine is another that boosts T levels, and is associated with slowing telomere shortening and longevity. Fenugreek is the basis of a newer product Nugenix™ (www.nugenix.com) I have been testing and produces results with an extract standardized for 50 % fenusides. The Fenugreek extract Testofen™ inhibits both aromatase and 5a-reductase, which block conversion to estrogen and DHT respectively. Human trials show boost in libido in both sexes, with fat loss, lowering of blood sugar and triglycerides, improved muscle growth in response to exercise and significant increase in free T. Maca is is a root vegetable cultivated in the Peruvian Andes, know to reduce prostate size (blocks DHT conversion) and function as an aphrodisiac. It is rich in the minerals mentioned above and is a staple food source for local peoples. Look for it in any effective formula. Muira Puama is a flowering plant from the Amazon rainforest known locally as potency wood reputed to increase sex drive and function. It is reasonably well tested and found in many T-booster formulas. Chrysin is a naturally occurring flavone chemically extracted from the passion flower. It has a history of use as an aromatase inhibitor. Some trials have found no measurable results, but in trials funded by Life Extension Foundation, combining chrysin with bioperine resulted in a 40% increase in total T, with a 40% reduction in estradiol in aging men. Panax Ginseng has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years as an anti-aging remedy and sexual stimulant, and while it works reasonably well to improve ED, it does not raise T levels. Epimedium or Horny Goat Weed got its name from herders noticing that their animals greatly increased their mating activities when they ate this weed. Human use followed immediately. Epimedium contains Icariin, which works exactly like Viagra without the headaches and risk of blindness. We need about 10 times the amount of Viagra, so 1000 mg should match the largest available dose of the drug. Like panax ginseng, it has pro-sexual activity, but does not significantly raise T levels. Stinging Nettle or Urtica Dioica is known for its prostate benefits, because it is a strong inhibitor of both aromatase and 5a-reductase and is commonly included in T-boosting formulations and formulations for prostate health. Forskolin from the Indian Coleus is a vasodilator and increases lean mass, bone strength and raises T levels. It is included in many bodybuilding formulas. Eurycoma longifolia (commonly called tongkat ali or long jack) is primarily used among asian peoples for its prosexual properties which eventually were found to result from increased T levels. There is a history of counterfeit products and poor standardization which make the ingredient’s use suspect.
This is a fairly complete list of what to look for in supplements to raise T levels while preventing the rise of estrogen and DHT in aging men. The benefits of maintaining health-promoting levels of T are many; greater physical strength, resistance to stress, better weight management and muscle to fat ratio, self confidence, positive mental state, and the normal diseases of aging are successfully pushed into the future. Yes, you can still get killed by a runaway truck or some freak accident, but we put the odds in our favor for higher quality of our life that remains.