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A new and smarter way to use testosterone stops muscle wasting

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Testosterone could help prevent muscle wasting when used correctly.

Wouldn't be nice if we could keep our youthful muscles throughout life, even when we get sick and frail? New research finds a small dose of testosterone taken each day might be the answer for preventing muscle wasting that, like it or not, happens as we grow older and when we are faced with chronic health conditions.

Testosterone at a low dose keeps muscles intact

For their study, scientists from Australia tested women by giving them a small dose of pure crystalline testosterone of 40mg a day.

The scientists found the low dose prevented protein wasting, was safe and small enough of a dose that there were no side effects.

The small oral dose is safer because it prevents the possible side effects of large doses typically given by injection or delivered via testosterone patch.

Associated side effects of testosterone include aggression, heart damage, increased facial hair in women and a deeper voice and increased libido in men.

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New hope for an old hormone?

Professor Ken Ho, from Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research said in a press release, “The novel aspect of this research is that only the liver gets tickled with testosterone. It is a new way of using an old hormone.”

The testosterone dose had the same effect as higher, injectable doses on protein metabolism in several categories said Dr Vita Birzniece who also participated in the research.

The study authors say wen testosterone is taken by mouth it goes straight to the liver where it is broken down; with no effect on other tissues. In contrast, injectable testosterone goes straight to the brain, peripheral tissue and other organs, leading to ill health effects.

Finding a way to preserve muscle mass in frail, elderly people would improve quality of life, independence and prevent falls and fractures. According to the National Institutes of Health, 8 percent of people over age 70 wind up in the emergency room as the result of falling and one-third are admitted to the hospital, resulting in significant cost to the U.S. health care system.

The next step is to recruit frail people, such as individuals with kidney failure and men with low testosterone to study whether there really is a new and safe way to use the old hormone testosterone to help keep muscles strong.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons