Men over 65 should consider taking hormone replacement therapy to boost their sex drive and improve their moods, according to new research.
Men who were treated with testosterone were founded to have higher sexual function and better moods than older men with low levels of the sex hormone.
Researchers said the results, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, were the first to convincingly show the benefits of testosteronefor men over the age of 65.
The findings of the US study of 790 men led by the University of Pennsylvania is the latest contribution to the long-running debate over the benefits of hormone therapy for men.
In 2003 an Institute of Medicine panel concluded that there was insufficient evidence that testosterone treatment was beneficial in older men, calling for more research into the issue.
And while testosterone has previously been explored as a potential treatment for diminished sexual function, mobility, and energy levels in men, the results of previous trials have been inconsistent.
To test the potential benefit of testosterone treatment in men who had low levels of the hormone for no other reason than their advancing age, researchers investigated the effectiveness of testosterone gel for boosting their sexual function, physical function and vitality.
The researchers found that men who received testosterone therapy for a year saw “significant improvements” in sexual function – including sexual activity, sexual desire, and erectile function when compared to those on a placebo.
Study co-author Professor Thomas Gill, of Yale School of Medicine, said: “There appears to be benefits for treatment with testosterone among men who have unequivocally low levels of testosterone that are attributable solely to age.
“The benefits were quite convincing for sexual function.”
The effects on the patients’ physical abilities were not so clear as the subjects specifically tested for improvements in their walking speed did not see significant improvements.
However when all of the study’s participants were included, there was a modest performance improvement as measured by an increase of 50 metres or more in the distance patients could walk in six minutes.
Men who had their vitality observed as part of the study saw modest benefits including improved mood and fewer depressive symptoms.
While the results were somewhat mixed, researchers said that an overall benefit that had not been seen in previous studies.
Prof. Gill said: “One way of interpreting the results across trials is a global impression of change.
“We found that testosterone improved men’s impression that their sexual desire, walking ability, energy level, and overall health were better.”
The researchers also reported that there were no increases in adverse side effects a year after testosterone therapy was discontinued.
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
However, Prof Gill said a larger trial would be needed to conclusively prove safety in the long term.
“The number of participants was too few to draw conclusions about the risk of testosterone treatment,” the study’s authors warned.
The research has been welcomed as a possible step towards guaranteeing quality of life for older men.
“It is a landmark study in the field of men’s health and no doubt a bell-wether for additional important contributions,” wrote Dr Eric Orwoll in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“Their report is important, not only because it deals with an essential public health issue but also because the investigators have succeeded in conducting the kind of well-conceived studies that are sorely needed.”
Do women have it?
Most certainly. It’s very important for controlling a woman’s sexual drive. This is a rather unique function of testosterone in primates.
There may be other important functions in some contexts, but there are not enough studies on testosterone in women. The idea that successful women (in a male sense) have more testosterone is nonsense.
Can we control testosterone ?
Much of human society, its laws, inhibitions, customs and traditions are really directed towards the social control of testosterone. Males can’t behave without restraint, much as they might like to do so.
What happens to testosterone at midlife and beyond?
Testosterone does decline with age, but at different rates in different males. It can result in erectile dysfunction, though this is not as common as often believed: erectile problems with age are mostly not dependent on testosterone.
However, prescriptions for testosterone supplements have increased three-fold in the UK in the last 10 years so there is clearly a belief that it does some good.