Messing around with hormones for vanity reasons sounds like a bad idea. But that is not stopping pharmaceutical companies from increasingly marketing testosterone treatments to men worried about aging.
According to The Associated Press, prescriptions for testosterone gels, patches and injections have jumped nearly 90 per cent over then past five years, and global sales climbed to $1.9 billion (U.S.) last year. The products are claimed to be able to reverse some signs of aging associated with declining testosterone levels, such as weight gain and decreased libido and energy, which occurs in men after the age of about 40. The big hitch is, the news agency reports, they may or may not work.
"The problem is that we don't have any evidence that prescribing testosterone to older men with relatively low testosterone levels does any good," Dr. Sergei Romashkan of the National Institute on Aging told The Associated Press.
In fact, such treatments could be risky; there are some concerns testosterone therapy may be linked to certain health issues, like heart problems and prostate cancer.
Some men swear by the products, noting they make them feel younger, more energetic and more mentally alert. But perhaps it is time to question the broader demand for quick fixes to signs of aging.
"We really medicalize seniors so much that they think the secret always has to be scientific," Dr. Nortin Hadler of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told The Associated Press. "We need another perspective to understand the secrets to healthy aging, which by and large are not pills."
As The Boston Globe points out, healthy aging requires effort. And for some, it may mean an entire lifestyle overhaul to include exercise (at least 45 minutes, three to four times a week), a diet of mostly fruits and vegetables, avoiding smoking, and sleeping at least six and a half hours a night.