After age 30, levels of the hormone testosterone face a decline in the human body. According to research, in some men the decrease is substantial resulting in fatigue, weight gain (so-called belly fat), low libido, mental fog, infertility, diminished bone mineral density, lower muscle mass and—today’s media mantra: erectile dysfunction. So what choices can be made to improve the quality of life lost to a waning hormone?
First, for the record, it’s not only age that can impact testosterone. Injury, illness, diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, certain drugs and treatments like chemotherapy, and even obesity are sometimes culprits. The condition—known as hypogonadism—can also be present in younger men and adolescents. In this group it is often characterized by a lack of body hair and deepening of the voice, overly long limbs, underdeveloped muscles, and even undeveloped genitals and enlarged breasts.
While testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is often recommended for the approximately 5 million men diagnosed with low testosterone (the “International Journal of Clinical Practice” says another 12.5 million likely have the hormone deficiency but are undiagnosed), with options that include injections, gels (caveat: testosterone can be transferred to unwitting recipients like women and children by contact this way) and patches, there’s a virtual smorgasbord of drugs taken orally available on the market. Many recommended for older men are made “low-T” drugs-of-choice by prolific advertising campaigns featuring beautiful people managing previously taboo topics such as erectile dysfunction (you know which ones they are). In fact gross U.S. sales for low testosterone treatments are at more than $2 billion, with pharmaceutical companies investing more than $100 million annually to promote them.
But many studies advocate injections as the strongest method of delivery, often when fertility is a key issue. Among those at the top of the healing heap, so to speak, is HCG—human chorionic gonadotropin—obtained from the urine of pregnant women (it is produced in the placenta). Simply put, HCG mimics leuteinizing hormone, which jumpstarts testosterone production. HCG can also be used to complement conventional TRT, if that is the road your doctor takes, which sometimes results in testicular shrinkage.
Price-wise, brand names of HCG can cost up to $300 per 5,000 Ius (international units) at a pharmacy, but cost just a little more than half of that from an online compounding pharmacy. The amount a physician recommends can vary from patient to patient, depending on the treatment criteria.