Is there a link between Testosterone and Covid 19?
After quite a few studies and reports in the media linking low testosterone levels and the increased risk of Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) complication, many people are starting to ask if there is a connection. Global death figures indicate that men are more likely to die from Covid-19 than women, and testosterone levels are now under investigation as a contributing factor. However, many experts in the field agree that 'healthy' testosterone levels influence the body to help stop and fight the harmful effects of the virus.
It is a common presumption that women are more likely to prioritize health than men. More men tend to smoke, drink alcohol, and more women eat well and exercise. However, new research is shedding light on how hormones could play an important role in beating Covid-19.How are Testosterone and Covid-19 Connected?
It is not particularly surprising to read articles and studies stating that testosterone may help patients avoid the danger of a severe Covid-19 infection. When you look at the benefits, optimal testosterone improves a man's overall health in many ways, giving them the ability to fight infection.
Men who suffer from low and reduced testosterone are at risk from:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Heart attacks
- High Cholesterol
- Atherosclerosis (veins clogged with plaque)
- Reduced ability to fight inflammation
These are all health conditions that can increase the severity of Covid-19 symptoms, as well as the likelihood of death.
Older people are also more vulnerable to Covid-19, and mortality rates rise the older you become. This pattern, funnily enough, coincides with the natural decline in testosterone levels as a man ages. Covid-19 slows testosterone production in the testicles even more, critically lessening testosterone's ability to help fight inflammation.
One theory is that low testosterone levels could be detrimental because of the role testosterone plays in triggering angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), a vital lung-protective enzyme. The ACE2 enzyme, which is more prevalent in men, is a protein present on the surface of many cells in the body, particularly in the lungs and the nose. On its surface are a series of small receptors to which the crown-like surface of Covid-19 easily binds, much like a lock and key. Once this union has taken place, the invading Covid-19 virus gets to work, infecting the cells and spreading around the body.
Evidence shows that low testosterone levels, especially in critically ill male patients, negatively impact endothelial cell function, triggering a faulty immune response. Low testosterone also affects your ability to clear the virus from your system and fight inflammation. Thus, decreased serum testosterone levels may impact male patients with Covid-19 by disrupting oxygen pathways around your pulmonary system, meaning it makes it harder to get oxygen to your vital organs. The conclusion being that low testosterone levels tie in directly with disease severity and outcome in male Covid-19 patients.
Low Testosterone Linked to Higher Mortality
On study(1) in Italy during the height of the pandemic's first wave looked at the mortality rate of 31 Covid-19 infected men.
"Our study demonstrates for the first time that lower baseline levels of TT (total testosterone) and cFT (free testosterone) levels predict poor prognosis and mortality in SARS‐CoV‐2‐infected men admitted to RICU (Hospital)" Giulia Rastrelli, Vincenza Di Stasi First published: 20 May 2020
Their study shone a bright light on the fact that men with lower levels of both free and total testosterone were more likely to die or suffer complications from Covid -19.
Another study in Germany (2) of 221 men concluded that Covid-19 reduces serum testosterone levels. Also, those with low testosterone levels were more likely to suffer severe complications due to the disease. Over half of the male patients studied had lower than normal testosterone levels.
"For the first time, our data suggest that COVID-19 might deteriorate serum testosterone level in SARS-CoV-2 infected male patients. Low serum total testosterone level at baseline has a significant increased risk for the ICU and mortality in patients with COVID-19." Selahittin Çayan, Mustafa Uğuz, Barış Saylam & Erdem Akbay (2020)
Further evidence backing up this theory is that men from South-Asia (who tend to have around 10% less testosterone than Caucasian men) have higher mortality rates. Afro-Caribbean men's mortality rates also show this trend, with their testosterone levels tending to decline on a steeper curve than the equivalent Caucasian Americans. This pattern fits the trend of mortality worldwide for these ethnic groups.
Arm Yourself with Optimal Testosterone
We are in no way stating that testosterone replacement therapy is the ticket to you being safe from this awful virus. That being said, improving your overall health and maintaining optimal testosterone levels will leave your body better prepared to fight off infections. As well as relieving some of the negative symptoms of low testosterone, HRT acts as a preventative treatment. By strengthening your cardiovascular health and immune system, you'll end up lessening your risk of health problems down the road. The pandemic is unpredictable, but optimal testosterone levels strengthen your health in the best and worst of times.
Testosterone Helps Lower Inflammation Cause by Covid-19
Testosterone's role in your immune response is crucial in how it helps your body deal with an attack from viruses. Biological markers in men with low testosterone show that they have a reduced 'ability' to fight the disease. In theory, testosterone is likely to play a role in the events leading to the progression of Covid‐19 infection and preventing the cytokine storm (where the body starts to attack itself rather than the virus). Testosterone may well affect Covid‐19 patients because of the known harmful impact of testosterone deficiency on cardiovascular mortality and heart failure. So, if you have low testosterone you could well be at higher risk of serious complications from Covid-19.
Testosterone Estrogen and Covid-19
One other distinct possibility is that women are less susceptible to dying and suffering from acute Covid-19 symptoms because estrogen acts as a defense against the virus. While men naturally produce less estrogen, it's still essential to maintaining healthy hormone levels. As your testosterone production falls, so does your estrogen production. The symptoms you may be feeling — exhaustion, difficulty losing weight, lack of focus, etc. — are as much due to a lack of estrogen as they are to a lack of testosterone.
The protective nature of estrogen on your body is why our doctors don't prescribe estrogen blockers as part of our testosterone treatment despite the common myth that more estrogen will lead you to become more "womanly." As your body produces more testosterone, it will also produce more estrogen, restoring your hormone levels to what they may have been in your 20s. Your body needs both hormones to fortify your health and strengthen your response to the virus.
Are you worried that you might be suffering from a testosterone deficiency? Take the free online self-test questionnaire to see if you might be suffering from the symptoms.