At what age does testosterone peak and why does it begin to drop?
One of the most popular and widely prescribed forms of medication is testosterone replacement therapy. While it has long just been accepted and marketed that testosterone levels decrease dramatically with age after 30 years or so, very few people have stopped to question why. (1)
Studies have shown a drop of about .4 to 2% annually every year after age 30. A 70 year old male will, on average, have lower testosterone levels then young men but that’s not exactly ground breaking information (4)
Why is testosterone important as men age?
While total testosterone will decrease with the age, the biggest threat seems to be the loss of bioavailable testosterone which can be decreased by as much as 50% when a male hits 75 years old. (5). We have our total testosterone then the actual amount of testosterone that is “free” to be used for energy, mental focus, muscle mass and general feelings of well being.
A protein known as sex hormone binding globulin rises with age and attaches to our free testosterone, making it useless. SHBG also rises with thyroid problems (often linked to gut issues), high triglyceride levels (often seen with too little exercise specifically aerobic work), high carbohydrate intake, high low density lipid cholesterol, body fat and sleep impairment. (6,7)
Why do we see such a spike in testosterone replacement therapy and low testosterone levels?
I’m completely of my own opinion here but I do think there is a natural decrease of testosterone levels as we age to move us from the young man who sets out to go to battle to the wise elder that gives guidance packed from experience.
There’s no science to support this but evolutionarily, it makes sense.
2) A more sensitive, disconnected medical practice
Let’s face it, in our lifetimes we went from a doctor talking to us for about 5-10 minutes to a doctor never looking up from this computer. My grandparents used to have doctors who made home visits and then they have to familiarize themselves with a doctor staring at a tablet. One of the reasons that “low testosterone” is even a topic might very well be a result of a medical system that has greater awareness of medical issues related to testosterone deficiency and is quick to attempt to change that (8)
3) Factors that are only revealing themselves now.
Medicine is always evolving but it can also be slow at times. From our article on what causes low testosterone
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published a study, in 2007, that concluded that men’s testosterone levels have progressively dropped by 17% in the timeframe between 1987 and 2004. Why did this drop happen? The study pointed out that it is not age alone that can be attributed to this drop in testosterone nor is it body fat, diabetes or mental health issues. While all of those factors contribute to lower testosterone, they aren’t the direct cause of this large drop. A 50 year old man in 1991 had more testosterone than a 50 year old man in 2003 (1).
Could our drop in testosterone be related to social media driven anxiety? Environmental toxins certainly play a role. How about the overall social message of toxic masculinity? (9)
There's factors yet determined that negatively impact our testosterone.
4) Rapidly changing lifestyle patterns.
We’ve covered topics such as vitamin D3 for testosterone, the benefits of fasting on testosterone and what foods increase testosterone. All of these matter and they all go into the lifestyle category. Our world is rapidly changing.
We’re sleeping less, staring at screens more, stressed more and we’re always connected. We have to remember that testosterone is a depreciating asset, our body uses it for everything we do every day.
If we have this same consistent pattern of always being on the go, our testosterone is going to have the small low response as well.
I don’t think there’s one singular reason why our testosterone drops. I think it’s a constant interconnected play of all the factors I’ve mentioned above. Like everything else, small daily habits matter.