Testosterone Gel: For Older Men, This May Not Be The 'Fountain Of Youth'

First Posted: Feb 18, 2016 02:09 PM EST

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine examines a recent group of trials on testosterone therapy that are currently being conducted at 12 medical centers in the United States in order to determine potential effects. 

The study looked at close to 800 men 65 and older at 12 centers nationwide--all of whom had low blood levels of testosterone. Participants randomly received the main male sex hormone through a gel or fake gel that did not contain hormones. They were required to rub it on their skin for a year and to fill out questionnaires and take a six-minute walking test at the end of the study.

The men were followed at three, six, nine and 12 months--with findings showing how testosterone gel increased their levels to the mid-normal range for men between the ages of 19 and 40.

"The results of the TTrials show for the first time that testosterone treatment of older men who have unequivocally low testosterone levels does have some benefit," Dr. Peter Snyder, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a news release. "However, decisions about testosterone treatment for these men will also depend on the results of the other four trials -- Cognitive Function, Bone, Cardiovascular, and Anemia -- and the risks of testosterone treatment."

Findings revealed that while the treatment helped improve activity, desire and the men's ability to hold an erection, improvements regarding the participants' sex lives were modest in the testosterone group and benefits regarding erectile function were less than those seen with Viagra and other drugs, according to CBS News

However, those on testosterone did have a slightly greater mood improvement and were able to walk stronger than other men. Yet there was no reported difference in energy boost between the two groups.

Dr. Eric Orwoll, a professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, wrote in an editorial published in the journal that the findings are significant as they do show some success. However, more research is needed regarding the effects, as well as potential side effects. 

"There is considerable controversy about possible adverse effects of testosterone therapy in older men, and these studies do not resolve this controversy," Orwoll wrote. "Although there were minor effects on hemoglobin and prostate-specific antigen levels, and, reassuringly, no apparent major toxic effects, larger and more extended trials would be needed to determine whether therapy has negative effects on outcomes such as prostate or cardiovascular health."

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