Low Testosterone and Body Fat: Are they Linked?

Low Testosterone and Body Fat: Are they Linked?

Beer gut, middle-aged spread, dad bod — whatever term you use, you’re noticing far more fat accumulation in your body these days, and you want to know why. If you want to point the finger squarely at low testosterone, there’s some evidence that the two are related, but the relationship is complicated.

To shed some light, Dr. Mike Hsieh and our team wanted to focus on the complex relationship that exists between testosterone and body fat. While low testosterone can play a role in increasing body fat, it might not be in the way you think.

Low testosterone by the numbers

Men naturally lose testosterone production as they age, but the loss is minimal and gradual — only about 1% a year starting at the age of 30. As you age, this reduction can begin to add up, leaving you with overall lower levels of testosterone. 

In fact, testosterone deficiency affects 10-50% of adult males in the United States, and the higher end of this spectrum is largely found in males over the age of 80.

While this testosterone deficiency makes sense given the aging context, more young adults are suffering from low T than usual (up to 20% of men between 15 and 39), as well as men with obesity — one study found that 30% of overweight men had lower-than-normal testosterone levels.

The two-way connection between body fat and testosterone

If you’re wondering whether your increase in body fat is fueled by a downward shift in your testosterone levels, we can say that the two may be connected. 

For starters, two of the primary side effects of low testosterone are fatigue and a loss of lean muscle mass. This loss of muscle can lead to weight gain since muscle burns more calories. Not to mention, the fatigue may have curbed your desire to get active, which can lead to weight gain.

An older study presented by the Society for Endocrinology in 2008 found a more direct link — the research found a 23% overlap between the genes that control testosterone and those that regulate body fat composition. The implication here is that lower levels of testosterone can lead to more body fat, especially in your abdomen.

Making matters even more complicated, when you carry extra weight, you may be forcing your testosterone levels lower as fat cells metabolize the hormone more quickly. This may be one of the factors behind the increase in younger men who have testosterone deficiencies.

What we’re trying to get at here is that there’s compelling evidence that links higher body fat to low T, but the relationship runs in both directions.

Fighting back against fat

If we find that you have low testosterone levels, we offer hormone replacement therapies that can address many of the side effects of low T, including loss of muscle mass and weight gain.

While these treatments can be highly effective in helping you “get back to normal,” if you’re struggling with excess body fat, diet and exercise should certainly also be part of your efforts.

If you’d like to learn more about the connection between low testosterone and body fat and how best to get rid of your excess weight, please contact our office in La Jolla, California, to set up a consultation.

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