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What Is the Relationship Between Diabetes and Testosterone?

For people with Type 1 diabetes, their body does not produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
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  • Written By: Marlene de Wilde
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 16 July 2014
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Testosterone is a hormone largely responsible for the changes males undergo when they reach puberty. It is thought that there may be a link between low levels of this hormone and diabetes, which occurs when the body stops processing glucose in the blood, which then causes elevated blood glucose levels. The link between diabetes and testosterone has been made because of a few studies that have shown that many men suffering from diabetes also exhibit low levels of testosterone.

Previously believed to apply only to type-2 diabetes, now this link has also been shown to apply to type-1. Type-1 diabetes is diagnosed when the body does not produce insulin, which is a hormone that aids in the movement of sugar from the blood to the cells. Type-1 sufferers are usually under the age of 40. Type-2 sufferers, on the other hand, are older and the insulin that is produced by the body is not as efficient at moving the sugar into the cells. Although this is known as adult-onset diabetes, caused mainly by lack of exercise and obesity, there are now many children being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes as well, mainly due to modern lifestyles.

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Insulin resistance precedes the onset of type-2 diabetes, and there appears to be a direct link between insulin resistance and low testosterone levels in men. Testosterone levels naturally decrease as men age, and if a man is obese, then his testosterone decreases even more. In men who had diabetes, the effect was increased. This does not seem to be the only determinant, however, as younger, thinner men with diabetes also suffered from low testosterone levels.

The problem does not lie within the testes, which make the hormone, but rather in the pituitary glands. These glands make luteinizing hormones that send the message to the testes to make testosterone. Men suffering from low testosterone tend to suffer more from erectile dysfunction, higher levels of abdominal fat, low bone density and mood disorders. For these reasons, the connection between diabetes and testosterone is considered an important one that needs treatment. It is also linked to insulin resistance.

Due to the link between diabetes and testosterone, it is being hypothesized that testosterone replacement therapy may reduce the level of insulin resistance of men with low levels of the hormone. Studies are also being carried out as to whether this kind of treatment can reduce the fatalities in men with diabetes and testosterone issues, a group that is at increased risk of early death.

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