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Is Testosterone Just a Sexual Hormone? Let's Help You Understand Better

While a good diet helps in healthy levels of testosterone, it's the liver that needs care as it produces hormones.

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When we use the word 'testosterone,' rarely do we mean anything other than hormones. Most of the times it's used in passing as either a joke or a snarky comment on masculinity.

While one might associate the term with aggressive behaviour, toxic masculinity, etc, the thought of hormones like testosterone playing a crucial part when it comes to overall health, might be something that never occurred to many of us.

So what really happens when the testosterone levels are really low? What effect does it have on health? How does one's nutrition intake affect it? To answer these questions and a few more, we spoke to Dr Ajith Partha, MBBS, Diploma in Psychiatric Medicine (DPM), Kindly.

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Testosterone Being a Sex Hormone, How Does the Intake of Nutrition Affect It?

'You are what you eat,' they say. This phrase is not entirely untrue, unless one decides to take it in the literal sense like if I eat eggplants, I'll turn into one. Jokes aside, our dietary habits affect each and everything our bodies are made up of and that includes testosterone too.

"Nutrition has a major impact on all hormones. However, protein helps in the development of testosterone levels, along with sufficient intake of Vitamin D, even standing in the sun for thirty minutes does the trick in keeping one’s testosterone levels healthy," says Dr Ajith.

However, nutrition does not have a direct impact on testosterone levels. While a good diet helps in healthy levels of testosterone, it is the liver that needs care since it produces hormones.
Dr Ajith Partha, MBBS, Diploma in Psychiatric Medicine (DPM), Kindly
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Smoking and alcohol consumption directly affects the liver, hence affecting testosterone levels as well. But do not confuse it with nutrition intake having no impact at all.

How does low levels of testosterone affect one’s body?

What comes to our minds when we talk about lower levels of testosterone? Lower libido? Lower sperm count?

A child in the age group of eleven years is very different from someone in their teens or late teens.

Dr Ajith says, "With puberty, testosterone levels go up leading to muscle building, changes in voice, and secondary sexual characteristics like the maturation of reproductive organs, and bone density."

A higher level of testosterone or genes also leads to a leaner and more muscular body. Men with low testosterone levels often face baldness and are treated with steroid therapy.
Dr Ajith Partha, MBBS, Diploma in Psychiatric Medicine (DPM), Kindly
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What effects can testosterone have on one’s brain and behaviour?

As I mentioned earlier, when we talk about testosterone and behaviour in the same sentence, somehow, unintentionally, the first word we think of is 'aggression'. It's like a default setting.

Dr Ajith says," a decrease in testosterone hormone can cause erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation." Psychologically, an individual may get depressed as the brain has cortical networks that activate testosterone levels, spatial cognition which basically means where do you get coffee, where do you get clothes, your way back home, and many other cognitive functions get affected.

There have not been any conclusive studies that show any behavior changes in humans. But, in animal studies higher testosterone levels may cause aggressiveness, more risk-taking and dominant behavior.
Dr Ajith Partha, MBBS, Diploma in Psychiatric Medicine (DPM), Kindly
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Do Indian men have lower levels of free circulating testosterone? Does the human race have anything to do with it?

"Compared to Caucasian men, Indian men have lower testosterone levels as we are also a protein deficit country with over 70% of Indians being protein deficient since our major source of nutrition is carbs. A healthy testosterone level across the globe is between 300 to 1000 nanogram per decilitre," says Dr Ajith.

But, it’s not all that bad either, we have better exposure to sunlight on a regular basis which is a positive of being in India as it elevates Vitamin D levels thus improving testosterone.

Some studies also prove that people of African descent have higher levels of testosterone levels not only due to sufficient nutrition intake, but also because sports are an integral part as compared to Indians.

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What percentage of urban Indian men suffer from low testosterone issue?

"Men and women visit infertility clinics when they try to conceive for 3-4 years and are unable to conceive. Even then, because in our society women are blamed for being ‘banjar’ or barren, men refrain from taking the tests, hence never being able to find out if they even have a problem to start with. However, there should not be a comparison or taboo around it at all," says Dr Ajith.

How does a poor diet affect testosterone?

A poor diet affects literally every aspect of our physical and mental health.

Dr Ajith says "us Indians being a powerhouse of carbohydrates and lesser protein, affect testosterone levels negatively. The main blame also goes to alcohol or cigarette intake as it directly affects the liver and impacts the testosterone levels causing them to degrade. It can also lead to infertility and lower libido."

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The worst of all is the unsolicited advice on social media, which people follow for dieting or losing weight in the name of being fit without consulting a professional. Such videos do more harm than good, lowering the testosterone and nutritional levels in one’s body.
Dr Ajith Partha, MBBS, Diploma in Psychiatric Medicine (DPM), Kindly

What can one do to boost the levels of testosterone?

One needs a proper amount of testosterone to grow and function in a normal and healthy manner. Getting your testosterone levels checked is as simple as having a blood test.

"The best way to boost ones testosterone levels is by increasing protein intake that is natural, like soy, meat, fish, eggs, lentils, etc. It is also very important to have a balanced diet and reduce or completely cut down on nicotine or alcohol consumption," says Dr Ajith.

One must also engage in some form of exercise to stay fit and avoid supplements without consulting a professional.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Health   men   Nutrition 

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