It’s a tale as old as time—as men age, their energy levels and sex drives drop and they report feeling unhappy and less masculine. For years, testosterone treatments have been promising to revive older men, but recent studies claim that these treatments aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Despite being around for decades, the first studies to analyze the pros and cons of testosterone treatments in men were only published this year. Researchers looked at a group of 790 men over the age of 65 with blood testosterone levels below 275 nanograms per deciliter of blood, which is way under the average for healthy young men and significantly lower than normal even for aging men. These men also reported having no sex drives.
Scientists gave half of the men a legitimate testosterone gel and half of the men a placebo gel. From there, the findings were mixed. While the testosterone gel helped with anemia—one possible cause for fatigue—it had no effect on memory or cognitive function. Even worse, the studies found that the treatments intensified the risk for heart disease, as there was increased non-calcified plaque build-up in the coronary arteries of the men who received the testosterone gel.
Another study done within the last year found that testosterone lifted moods a little, but it had no effect on stamina or tiredness. And while treatments caused a slight spike in sexual functionality, it only lasted for so long before it dropped again. Scientists said drugs like Viagra would be more beneficial for sexual performance than testosterone treatments.
“Testosterone is clearly not a panacea,” says one of the study’s authors, Dr. Thomas Gill of the Yale School of Medicine. “It’s not an agent that’s going to restore the fountain of youth. The benefits are modest, even when they are favorable.”
Before you get too worried, of all men over the age of 65, roughly 15 percent have testosterone levels as low as the men who participated in these studies. Typically, most men only have to deal with slightly lowered levels of testosterone and less severe symptoms. So, most of you only have to watch out for that midlife crisis instead.