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How low testosterone might raise type 2 diabetes risk for men

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Low testosterone levels linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Low testosterone might raise the risk of diabetes for men, suggests a new investigation. Low level of the male hormone is linked to insulin resistance and can trigger obesity and type 2 diabetes, but researchers say mouse studies show low testosterone can trigger diabetes even when weight is normal.

Low testosterone with aging might also explain diabetes

Obesity is the most commonly implicated cause of type 2 diabetes. Aging is also at risk factor for developing the disease. Based on the new finding, researchers speculate diabetes might be tied to low testosterone levels that also decline when men get older.

Dr Kerry McInnes, from the University of Edinburgh's Endocrinology Unit, said in a press release, "This study shows that low testosterone is a risk factor for diabetes no matter how much a person weighs. As men age their testosterone levels lower. This, along with increasing obesity, will increase the incidence of diabetes."

Testosterone that is present in fat tissue binds to androgen receptors. Mice in the study with no androgen receptors were more prone to develop obesity and insulin resistance, regardless of diet and body mass, perhaps from a protein that the researchers say is crucial for regulating insulin resistance when testosterone is impaired.

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A blood test can tell if you have lower than normal testosterone levels. Blood tests specifically measure androgen levels. Normal value for men is : 300 -1,200 ng/dL.

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: "We already know that low testosterone levels are associated with increased obesity and therefore with increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, but this study provides evidence that there can be increased risk even when body mass is not affected. Yet while testosterone-impaired mice developed insulin resistance whatever diet they were given, the effect was considerably more pronounced on those fed on a high fat diet. This reinforces Diabetes UK advice that a healthy balanced diet is important for everyone and particularly for those already at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.”

He adds that more work is needed to determine if the same risk of low testosterone causing diabetes applies to humans. The hope is that the preliminary finding could help people living with diabetes in the future. The study suggests low testosterone could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes for men.

Source: The University of Edinburgh
May 4, 2012

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