Although often joked about, male menopause, or andropause, is no laughing matter. Unlike menopause, andropause doesn’t describe a specific point in time. Instead, it is characterized by the gradual decline in testosterone levels in males over the age of 30. Low testosterone levels can cause a range of symptoms and are associated with an increased risk for several health conditions.
What causes a decrease in testosterone and how many men are affected?
Testosterone production begins to decline in men over the age of 30, at a rate of 0.4%–2% annually; 35% of men aged 70 and older, and 50% of men over the age of 80 have lower testosterone levels than their younger counterparts.,,
In one study of almost 1,500 men aged 30–79, researchers found that almost a quarter (24%) had total testosterone levels below 300 ng/dl, while 11% had levels below 5 ng/dl. Levels lower than 220–345 pmol/l (6–10 ng/dl) are typically considered abnormal.
Low testosterone is more common in men who are overweight or obese, as well as in men who get little physical exercise. The science is still evolving in this area, but there is strong evidence linking obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and androgen deficiency (including low testosterone), as well as an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. What’s more, research has found that leaner men have a greater increase in testosterone after exercise than men who are obese. The major factors affecting testosterone levels are:
- Older age
- Raised levels of luteinizing hormone (suggesting impaired testicular function)
- Obesity or overweight
Decreased testosterone production is not the only cause of low testosterone levels in men. As men age, the levels of another hormone – sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) – typically increase. As its name suggests, SHBG binds to testosterone in the blood, meaning it is no longer available for the body to use. Low testosterone production, plus an increase in SHBG, creates a double whammy for older men, leading to symptoms of low testosterone.
Symptoms of low testosterone
Low testosterone has been associated with a range of symptoms. In the study mentioned earlier, men with low levels of testosterone reported the following symptoms:
- Low libido (12% of men)
- Erectile dysfunction (16%)
- Osteoporosis/bone fracture (1%)
- Two or more nonspecific symptoms (20%), including:
- Sleep disturbance
- Depressed mood
- Diminished physical performance
Other symptoms of low testosterone in men over the age of 30 include altered muscle mass and fat distribution, changes in hair growth, and effects on emotional and cognitive well-being. As you’ll notice, many of the low testosterone symptoms outlined above can be the result of other health issues, aging in general, or particular lifestyle factors such as stress or lack of sleep. If you are concerned about any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your health care practitioner for a proper diagnosis.
5 ways to boost testosterone naturally
If low testosterone levels are the cause of your symptoms, you may be prescribed testosterone as pills, patches, or injections. Here are five other ways to support natural testosterone production and SHBG levels:
- Ensure a good intake of the essential nutrients your body needs to make testosterone, such as zinc, vitamin D3, and chromium.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight – make sure to get regular exercise, especially resistance training.
- Take ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb shown to support testosterone levels in men.
- Take bioperine, a compound found in black pepper that enhances the availability of nutrients needed for testosterone production, including zinc and chromium.,
- Take cordyceps, a species of fungi that has not only demonstrated antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects, but which also seems to support testosterone levels and athletic performance in men engaged in endurance sports.,
Essential nutrients for testosterone production
Zinc is an essential nutrient for protein metabolism, healing, and sexual function, and plays a key role in the regulation of testosterone levels. In older men with marginal zinc deficiency, daily zinc supplementation for six months is associated with an increase in serum testosterone. Zinc also inhibits an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase activity, which converts testosterone to its less desirable metabolite dihydrotestosterone – which is linked to male pattern baldness and prostate enlargement. Other nutrients are also important for testosterone production. In one study, vitamin D3 was found to increase testosterone levels by 30% in overweight men, while low levels of zinc and chromium have been associated with low testosterone in people with type 2 diabetes.
Ashwagandha and testosterone
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote balance in the body, and improve the body’s ability to self-regulate key systems; including neurological, immune, reproductive, endocrinal, and energy-production. The active components of this herb include alkaloids (isopelletierine, anaferine), steroidal lactones (withanolides, withaferins), and saponins. Ashwagandha has demonstrated antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and adaptogenic effects (helping your body to handle stress better), and has been associated with an increase in testosterone levels in men.,,
In an eight-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, ashwagandha was associated with improvements in testosterone levels in response to exercise. The researchers recruited 57 men aged 18–50 years old with little experience in resistance training, and randomly assigned them to receive either a placebo or 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily. At the end of eight weeks of resistance training, the ashwagandha group had significantly greater increases in testosterone levels and muscle size and strength, compared to the placebo group. The men taking ashwagandha also had significantly greater reduction of exercise-induced muscle damage and body fat percentage, compared to the placebo group. 
Natural support for testosterone production
Ultimate Testosterone Boost is a synergistic formula that promotes healthy testosterone production in men. This formula features a full-spectrum KSM-66 Ashwagandha™ extract alongside zinc, vitamin D3, and vitamins B6 (the “stress vitamin”), and B12. KSM-66 Ashwagandha has the highest concentration of full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract available and is one of the best-researched ashwagandha extracts on the market. It has demonstrated benefits for stress and enhancement of energy, endurance, and sexual function in men.
Ultimate Testosterone Boost also features choline and chromium, BioPerine® black pepper extract, organic cordyceps, and 3,3′-Diindolylmethane (DIM) for additional support for hormone health, digestion, nutrient bioavailability, and immune function.,,If you’re concerned about low testosterone, eat sensibly, exercise regularly (especially resistance training), quit smoking (if you haven’t already) – and check out Ultimate Testosterone Boost.
Great article. Generally, foods high in zinc and selenium are the best for testosterone.