Testosterone May Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Diabetic men with low testosterone may be helped with supplementation

(RxWiki News) In men with type 2 diabetes, testosterone levels are likely to be low. Increasing the male hormone may help patients control the disease by decreasing their insulin resistance.

The American Diabetes Association says that low testosterone levels are twice as common among men with diabetes than men without the condition.

Some previous research has shown that testosterone supplements may reduce the risk of getting diabetes for some men.

A recent investigation found that testosterone lowered insulin resistance in men who had type 2 diabetes and low hormone levels.

"If you’re a diabetic, ask a doctor about testosterone."

Sandeep Dhindsa, MD, associate professor of medicine at University at Buffalo, the State University of New York, served as the lead author on this investigation examining 81 men with type 2 diabetes.

Of these patients, 42 had normal levels of testosterone and 39 men had hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH).  In men who have this condition, the testes are producing little or no sexual hormones.

Individuals in the study were randomly selected to receive either a placebo or 250 mg of intramuscular testosterone every two weeks for six months.

After six months, Dr. Dhindsa and his team measured insulin sensitivity in the patients. Insulin normally helps deliver glucose (blood sugar) to cells to provide them with energy. These patients with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance syndrome (also called metabolic syndrome), so their body’s cells are not responding normally to insulin and taking up glucose. That causes their blood sugar levels to rise.

Scientists calculated glucose infusion rates (GIRs) in study participants using a hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp. The clamp measures the amount of glucose necessary to compensate for an increased insulin level without causing hypoglycemia, which is an abnormally low blood sugar level.

In the testosterone group, GIR increased by 25 percent after 6 months of treatment. The placebo group showed no improvement.

Dr. Dhindsa told dailyRx News, “We measured insulin resistance by the gold standard method. Our data show that insulin resistance is reversed following testosterone replacement. This does not completely cure the insulin resistance, and you cannot recommend testosterone to improve sugar control. This does not translate into a recommendation that physicians start prescribing testosterone to men with low testosterone and type 2 diabetes. This is just a step in learning more about the effect of the testosterone on the body in this population.”

Because insulin resistance increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease, Dr. Dhindsa believes the next most important step in research should be to see if increasing testosterone in these patients will “lead to lesser frequency of heart attacks and improve life span.”

The study was published as an abstract and presented in May at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists 22nd Annual Scientific & Clinical Congress.

Review Date: 
May 10, 2013