In a new study, researchers found that treatment with testosterone prevents or reverses newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes in men.
This is the largest study of testosterone treatment ever undertaken.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Adelaide and elsewhere.
The study included more than 1000 men aged between 50 and 74 years old who were overweight or obese.
All men were enrolled in the WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) lifestyle program. They could attend groups, use the website, the app, or any combination of those.
Half of the men were injected with long-acting testosterone every three months and the other half were injected with placebo.
After two years of treatment, 87 out of 413 (21%) men in the placebo group had type 2 diabetes (based on an oral glucose tolerance test) compared with 55 out of 443 (12%) men in the testosterone group.
Men in both groups lost weight (on average 3 to 4kg) and glucose tolerance normalized in 43% and 52% of men in the placebo and testosterone groups, respectively.
The team also found that the men treated with testosterone compared to placebo had a lower fasting blood sugar, a greater decrease in body fat, an increase in skeletal muscle mass and handgrip strength, and improvements in sexual function.
The most common adverse effect occurring in 22% of men treated with testosterone was an increase in the concentration of red cells in the blood, which could potentially lead to “sludgy” blood.
The results of the study show that, on top of modest weight loss achieved with healthy eating and increased activity, testosterone has some added benefit to prevent or reverse newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes.
However, the results do not necessarily mean that a script for testosterone should be written.
It is known that men at risk of type 2 diabetes are usually overweight and either have or are at risk of, other chronic disorders that have not been detected or adequately managed.
Not infrequently these men are also drinking too much alcohol and have sleep or mood disorders. Weight loss achieved through healthy lifestyle behaviors remains the benchmark.
More research is needed to determine whether the beneficial effects of testosterone persist beyond two years, whether long-term treatment is safe and whether other forms of testosterone have similar benefits or risks.
One author of the study is Professor Gary Wittert.
The study is published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
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