Hormones are some of the most important natural chemicals in the human body. They are responsible for a wide array of processes in our bodies and the development of our bodies as we grow up. The most widely known ones are testosterone and estrogen, assigned as primary sex hormones for women and men.
Let’s take a closer look at testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, and see what exactly it does in our bodies.
What is testosterone exactly?
The primary male sex hormone is also considered to be an anabolic steroid in males. It has a role to play when in both male and female bodies, despite the fact that it is described as a male hormone. It is responsible for managing mood, behavior, health, and well-being and the prevention of osteoporosis.
Let’s take a look at how testosterone impacts the male and female bodies, respectively.
Role of testosterone in the male body
Naturally, we start with the male body. The hormone starts being produced by the male body as early as seven weeks after conception. It is at its peak during puberty, and it slowly starts to decline after the age of 30 at an average rate of 1% per year.
As soon as the fetus is seven weeks old, testosterone helps the mother’s body form the male genitalia. During puberty, the role of testosterone is to help the teenager develop male features, including a deeper voice and more body hair, and it also contributes to testicular and penis growth. Proper testosterone levels ensure the steady production of sperm each day.
Male libido and sex drive depend on testosterone levels as well. It’s a bit of a weird connection, as the less testosterone you have, the less sex you desire, and having no sex will also result in lower testosterone levels.
The relationship between mood regulation has been hinted at by many researchers, but the intricacies of that relationship are yet to be determined.
Role of testosterone in the female body
Even though not commonly associated with the female body, testosterone does have some pretty significant roles to play in the female body.
The female body uses testosterone, combined with other androgens, to create female sex hormones.
Testosterone in females impacts bone strength and ensures fertility and a healthy sex drive. Most people, when they hear about female hormonal disbalance, think about lack or excess of estrogen, but lack or excess of testosterone is also a possibility.
What’s surprising is that testosterone also ensures healthy menstrual cycles and maintains vaginal health. Testosterone helps with ovulation and the repair of vaginal walls during that process.
The fact that this is a male hormone means that elevated testosterone levels can have some pretty unpleasant side effects — mostly related to the development of male features, which is commonly seen in female athletes that take steroids.
Testosterone deficiency in women is also a bad thing as it may obstruct the menstrual cycle, cause fertility issues, and may lead to brittle bones as the body is unable to repair regular deterioration.
The process of testosterone creation by gender
Even though testosterone is present in both male and female bodies, the process of creating the hormone is different. This is only natural, as the optimal levels are very different in men and women.
Overview of testosterone’s roles in our bodies
We’ve mentioned a few things that testosterone manages in the human body but haven’t really explained how and why. Let’s go through the most widely known functions of testosterone that we know about so far — remember, we still don’t fully understand what hormones do in our bodies, and this is true for testosterone too.
We’ve all heard of synthetic anabolic steroids used to boost muscle growth — it turned out that they are very bad for our bodies, so we made them illegal. The reason why we made them in the first place is due to the fact that testosterone already helps with muscle building.
Testosterone impacts muscle growth in several ways. It impacts protein synthesis by interacting with the nuclear receptors in our DNA. The other way is by increasing the number of neurotransmitters that encourage muscle growth. The reason why older men and women have a harder time building lean muscle mass is due to the lack of testosterone.
Fat and testosterone have a peculiar relationship. Obesity is considered one of the most reliable contributors to testosterone deficiency. This is due to the fact that it releases aromatases, enzymes that are responsible for the conversion of free testosterone into estrogen.
Now, testosterone has also been proven to help with the reduction of fat.
In men who suffer from testosterone deficiency due to hypogonadism, studies show that testosterone therapy causes a reduction in weight, fat mass, BMI, and waist circumference. This aspect of testosterone’s function has been explored by Abdulmaged M. Traish in a study from 2014, but we’re still not getting the full picture here, so keep this in mind.
We mentioned that testosterone helps manage bone repair in both male and female bodies and is also a crucial factor in the prevention of osteoporosis. The reason why it’s so important here is that it has a role to play when it comes to bone mineral density. There are two important studies that outline this effect of testosterone, but it is yet unclear if it helps with bone crack prevention as well.
The first study worth noting is one by Nazem Bassil et al., which studied the benefits of testosterone treatment and determined that it improved spinal and hip bone density. The other one is a study on females transitioning to the male gender, where it was found that their bone density increased.
Healthy heart and blood
You should be aware that low testosterone is linked to low red blood cell production, and this can be a cause of cardiovascular diseases. Testosterone helps with red blood cell production through the bone marrow. In a recent study involving 83,000 men researchers found that the chance of having a stroke was reduced by 36%, and the chance of a heart attack was reduced by 24% in men who reestablished optimal testosterone levels.
We all know that teenage boys usually suffer from acne while their hormones are running wild. The connection between testosterone and acne is a curious one. Studies show that people who have acne have higher testosterone levels.
The reason why this occurs is mostly due to the fact that testosterone impacts the production of sebum. Sebum is produced by sebaceous glands that are all over our bodies and are especially highly concentrated on our faces. Sebum is the oily substance that the glands use to clear out our pores, but they sometimes get clogged with sebum, dead skin, and other filth.
If the skin is unable to clear it out, the pore gets inflamed, so we get the red, throbbing bulges on our skin.
Keep in mind that acne is not only triggered by high testosterone but also by fluctuation in testosterone, so breakouts can occur when your testosterone rises even though it’s not high overall.
Now, testosterone has a dual role here, and one is positive while the other is not so much.
When it comes to pubic and facial hair, testosterone is responsible for those growing in men, and this effect starts during puberty. If you suddenly start losing pubic and facial hair, one of the potential reasons is that you have a testosterone deficiency.
The other aspect of it is that it may be causing your hair to fall out. Testosterone is not directly responsible for balding, but some men are born with follicles sensitive to testosterone — to DHT (Dihydrotestosterone), to be exact. Still, there’s nothing you can do about this, unfortunately. Good health dictates optimal testosterone levels, so being bald is a small price to pay for that.
The central nervous system
The central nervous system controls testosterone production, and the process looks like this. The hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland the amount of testosterone that needs to be produced, and then the pituitary gland requisitions this amount from the testicles.
This hormone is also responsible for regulating some behaviors, most commonly associated with aggression and dominant behavior. It is also credited with managing self-esteem and competitiveness, with competitive activities being able to actually boost testosterone levels.
Low testosterone has also been shown to cause a fall in confidence, difficulty with getting motivated, overall feelings of sadness, and issues with focus. A deficiency is also known to cause issues with sleep and a lack of energy.
The reproductive system
We already discussed testosterone’s role in the development of male reproductive organs, both in utero and during puberty. Testicles produce both sperm and testosterone, so a link between regular sperm production and testosterone isn’t all that surprising.
In females, testosterone has a role to play in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and the repair of the female reproductive system.
It is not recommended for men attempting to have children to get testosterone treatment as it can disrupt the production and quality of sperm. The outside influx of testosterone may cause the body to think that there is too much testosterone in the body and may discontinue natural testosterone production and, through that, impact sperm production.
Low testosterone may lead to erectile dysfunction and low sex drive, making optimal testosterone levels crucial for a well-functioning male libido.
We’ve found many sources that indicate there is a connection between female libido and testosterone. Unfortunately, even researchers are not sure how exactly this connection works as the subject needs more research.
Optimal testosterone levels by gender
Normal testosterone levels are a bit tricky to evaluate. They vary based on gender, age, weight, and so on, so we decided to at least split them into gender categories and show you the optimal range of testosterone at each relevant age bracket.
There is quite a distinct difference between men and women when it comes to optimal levels of testosterone, which is to be expected. Men have a more complex internal testosterone life, so they even get significant changes at multiple stages of their lives. Keep in mind that even though we haven’t marked in the table up there, men over 35 tend to lose 1% of their testosterone production on average. This means that the older we get it gets harder to retain optimal testosterone production.
In males, testosterone regulates libido, bone density, sperm production, mood, and behavior, fat regulation, and more.
In females, it has fewer roles but is also very important. It regulates libido, bone density, menstrual cycles, and the repair of the reproductive organs.
The male body is developed by testosterone even in the womb. It is responsible for the development of the male reproductive system and male features, including a deeper voice and increased upper body muscle mass, and regulates many things in men’s bodies, including sperm production.
Testosterone has many benefits, but in most cases, people like to outline its impact on confidence and dominant behavior, muscle growth, and energy. Testosterone is an essential hormone in both the male and female body, so the primary benefit is being healthy.
Usually, it is associated with aggressive behavior, but this is only when sudden spikes in testosterone occur. Generally, abnormally high testosterone levels in men can cause the shrinking of testicles, low sperm count, and impotence. There are also mentions of prostate enlargement, heart damage, and heart attack risk.