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Optimum Performance: Trying to increase testosterone – here’s what you need to know

Last week in my column, Joe Mather, a board certified Family Medicine physician at the Center For Longevity and Wellness in Metairie, Louisiana, said men younger than 40 almost always have another issue that should be addressed prior to being put on testosterone.

Yet many men in that age group, and younger, will purchase an over-the-counter supplement to support their testosterone levels with the hope of increasing strength, improving libido, or dropping excess body fat.

There is research showing that certain nutrients do demonstrate the ability to increase both free and total testosterone.

A 2016 study that appeared in Aging Male, examined “the effect of Testofen, a specialized Trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract, on the symptoms of possible androgen deficiency, sexual function, and serum androgen concentrations in healthy, aging males.”

This double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial involved 120 healthy men between 43 and 70 years of age. The active treatment was, “a standardized Trigonella fornum-graecum seed extract at a dose of 600 mg/day for twelve weeks.

The study concluded that, “both total serum testosterone and free testosterone increased compared to placebo, after 12 weeks of active treatment.”

Amanda Rao, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney in Australia, and the managing director and principle investigator at RDC Global – a clinical research organization, specializing in conducting trials for the nutraceutical, cosmetic, and food industries, was the lead author on this Testofen study.

The obvious question is why does Testofen seem effective in increasing a man’s testosterone level?

“Testofen,” noted Rao, “has a two-part effect, firstly helping to displace a small amount of bound testosterone, as well as, down-regulating 5-alpha reductase expression, thereby increasing the amount of bioavailable testosterone.”

In addition, “two clinical studies on men have shown that both the total and free testosterone increase by a small but statistically significant amount,” commented Rao.

How long can a man stay on it? Rao says, “there are no clearly defined time limits, and given the mechanism of action, nor would you expect there to be. In practical terms, the user can continue to take Testofen, until he decides that he no longer wants or needs the benefits of restored testosterone levels.”

And it’s safety level? “Testofen has an established safety record having been on the market for over ten years, as well as, a number of safety and toxicity studies,” commented Rao.

What medical conditions would make Testofen contraindicated? Prostate cancer that is androgen-sensitive should be starved of testosterone. Accordingly, exclusion criteria include high or high delta PSA, or Cellsearch; and diagnosed endcocine-sensitive prostate cancer.”

I turned to Mather to weigh in after he studied this research.

“It’s good to see positive results from this study, and it demonstrates the potential of alternative treatments to raise testosterone.”

However, Mather said there are two reasons to be skeptical of this study. “First,” noted Mather, “the study was funded by the company who makes Testofen – which obviously has a financial interest in promoting positive results! Second, it was a short-term study of healthy males lasting for only 12 weeks. While the results were positive, they may have been different were the group made up of men with medical problems or studied for a longer amount of time.”

What if a man chooses to use Testofen? “Men looking to ‘go it alone’ should be aware that erectile problems and low testosterone levels are often a warning sign of a deeper problem, such as heart disease, low night time oxygen due to sleep apnea, or metabolic problems, such as elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance. I feel strongly that all men with these issues should work with their doctor before taking supplements.

The bottom line: “My clinical experience is that herbal supplements can have a beneficial effect in males trying to increase the amount of free testosterone, and are one approach to helping men live happier lives. They may be useful for a male who is wary of committing to a lifetime of testosterone replacement therapy.”

Before you do anything:

If you’re a man who’s 45 years or older and are considering whether or not you need to support your testosterone level, then you first need to read my two recent NOLA.com columns (listed below) for the pros and cons, based on an interview with two medical professionals. Then, consult your personal physician about your options.

  1. Optimum Performance: Low T – The aging man’s options
  2. Optimum Performance: Trying to increase testosterone – here’s what you need to know