In the hepatic 17-ketosteroid pathway of testosterone metabolism, testosterone is converted in the liver by 5α-reductase and 5β-reductase into 5α-DHT and the inactive 5β-DHT, respectively. Then, 5α-DHT and 5β-DHT are converted by 3α-HSD into 3α-androstanediol and 3α-etiocholanediol, respectively. Subsequently, 3α-androstanediol and 3α-etiocholanediol are converted by 17β-HSD into androsterone and etiocholanolone, which is followed by their conjugation and excretion. 3β-Androstanediol and 3β-etiocholanediol can also be formed in this pathway when 5α-DHT and 5β-DHT are acted upon by 3β-HSD instead of 3α-HSD, respectively, and they can then be transformed into epiandrosterone and epietiocholanolone, respectively. A small portion of approximately 3% of testosterone is reversibly converted in the liver into androstenedione by 17β-HSD.
In addition to conjugation and the 17-ketosteroid pathway, testosterone can also be hydroxylated and oxidized in the liver by cytochrome P450 enzymes, including CYP3A4, CYP3A5, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, and CYP2D6. 6β-Hydroxylation and to a lesser extent 16β-hydroxylation are the major transformations. The 6β-hydroxylation of testosterone is catalyzed mainly by CYP3A4 and to a lesser extent CYP3A5 and is responsible for 75 to 80% of cytochrome P450-mediated testosterone metabolism. In addition to 6β- and 16β-hydroxytestosterone, 1β-, 2α/β-, 11β-, and 15β-hydroxytestosterone are also formed as minor metabolites. Certain cytochrome P450 enzymes such as CYP2C9 and CYP2C19 can also oxidize testosterone at the C17 position to form androstenedione.
In 2003, an Institute of Medicine panel concluded that there was insufficient evidence supporting the benefits of testosterone in older men and recommended further research. Consequently, in 2010, the National Institute of Aging, which is part of the NIH, launched the Testosterone Trials (T Trials) to figure out whether testosterone can help with symptoms associated with low levels of testosterone secondary to older age (i.e., symptomatic hypogonadism).
The results of these studies indicate that testosterone treatment in older men with low testosterone may proffer some benefits. However, testosterone treatments may also entail risks. The exact trade-off is unknown. Larger and longer studies need to be performed to clarify the effects of testosterone on heart health, bone health, disability, and more.
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Vitamin C (unnecessary). I don’t know where I first heard about vitamin C’s supposed T-boosting benefits, but it’s one of those things you see all over the internet when you Google “how to increase testosterone.” Without trying to find the research that backs up that claim, I took a vitamin C supplement during my experiment. I later found some research that suggests that vitamin C does increase testosterone levels in diabetic mice, but because I wasn’t diabetic (nor a mouse), I’m not sure how much the vitamin C helped. I’ve actually stopped taking vitamin C supplements. I’m likely getting more than enough with my diet. Unless you have diabetes, you probably won’t see much benefit from this supplement. Don’t waste your money.
Eggs often come up in reproductive health discussion. This time we’re talking about dietary eggs, as in omelets, and the role they play in boosting testosterone. The hormone boost from eggs comes primarily from the yolks, which are rich in dietary cholesterol, mono- and saturated fats—nutrients once demonized by health experts that have since proven to positively influence waistlines and hormone-health.
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We should probably start with the elephant in the room: do these supplements increase testosterone? The answer is probably yes. There are some ingredients that help convince your body to produce more testosterone, but there’s a catch. Testosterone boosters aren’t actually great at boosting; that is, at pushing your testosterone levels above your healthy, normal balance. Boosters typically act more like restorers — helping bring low testosterone levels back to that healthy equilibrium rather than boosting you above normal testosterone levels. Just like how if you have anemia, taking a vitamin B12 supplement can help restore your energy and reduce fatigue, but if your B12 levels are good, a supplement won’t give you super energy levels to stay awake for three days — your body will likely just process (read: pee) out the extra.
Lets touch on these individually. Gluten has been shown to increase prolactin levels in male mice (48 & 49). Increased prolactin levels in males leads to all sorts of horrible things: Man Boobs (50), High inflammation (51), and most importantly, higher prolactin levels have been shown to be testosterone lowering and lead to shrinking of the testicle (52).
Men who have prostate cancer or breast cancer should not take testosterone replacement therapy. Nor should men who have severe urinary tract problems, untreated severe sleep apnea or uncontrolled heart failure. All men considering testosterone replacement therapy should undergo a thorough prostate cancer screening -- a rectal exam and PSA test -- prior to starting this therapy.