Preventing Muscle Loss—Researchers Find Testosterone Improves Results
Losing weight is tough.
Not only is it challenging to shed the initial unwanted pounds and shrink your waistline, it’s a significant challenge to keep the weight off. You also have to consider the effects your new diet has on your body as a whole, including the possibility of simultaneous muscle loss and weakness.
However, research presented at the 2016 Endocrine Society annual conference shows possibilities for preventing a significant loss of muscle mass—achieving and maintaining a healthy testosterone level may be the key.
There are 2 well-established facts that will help anyone better understand the relationship between weight loss, muscle loss and testosterone:
- The number of obese males suffering from hypogonadism (the medical term for low testosterone) is significantly higher than men within the normal weight range
- Testosterone is responsible for weight control and lean muscle production in the body
Therefore, it makes good sense for the researchers to examine whether increased testosterone levels could help reduce overall weight while also limiting the body mass reduction to only the undesirable fat tissue.
Testosterone and Preventing Muscle Loss: What the Research Shows
Otherwise healthy men with obesity and low testosterone randomly treated with testosterone therapy and a very low calorie diet were able to maintain their muscle mass while losing body fat, whereas men assigned placebo lost both lean muscle and fat mass, according to study findings.
Mark Ng Tang Fui, MBBS, BMedSc, FRACP, an endocrinologist and PhD student in the department of medicine at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, and a team of fellow researchers analyzed data from 100 men with an average age of 53 years who suffered from both obesity and low testosterone (defined in this study as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 30 kg/m² with serum total testosterone levels less than 12 nmol/L).
All men were assigned a very low calorie diet for 10 weeks (approximately 600 kcal per day), followed by a weight maintenance diet with normal foods for the next 46 weeks. They were also encouraged to abstain from alcohol and perform at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise.
Researchers randomly assigned participants to a group receiving 10 weekly injections of testosterone for 56 weeks, or to a group who received placebo injections over the same period. Their body fat mass and overall body mass were measured by an array of medical scans.
At the 56th week, both the group receiving testosterone injections and the group receiving the placebo lost approximately 11 kg.
However, the significant finding was what type of weight the men from each group lost. Men in the testosterone group lost more fat mass and visceral fat compared with men assigned placebo, and results show that testosterone therapy prevented the loss of lean mass and reduced the muscle weakness expected with significant diet-associated weight loss. The research abstract can be read here.
Mathis Grossman, MD, PhD, FRACP, an associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, and a contributor to the study had the following comments:
“There is an epidemic of obesity and related functional hypogonadism, yet testosterone treatment remains controversial. This study shows for the first time that, among obese men with lowered testosterone, testosterone treatment augmented the diet-induced loss of total and visceral fat mass and prevented the diet-induced loss of lean mass.”
Testosterone and Preventing Muscle Loss: The Conclusions
Dr. Grossman continued, saying:
“While men on placebo lost both lean and fat mass, testosterone prevented this loss of lean (muscle) mass and shifted the weight loss almost exclusively to loss of fat. We now want to see whether these changes, expected to be metabolically favorable, safely translate into improved cardiometabolic outcomes.”
Among those improved health outcomes researchers are hoping for is reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and possibly even diabetes remission in patients suffering from Low T.
For men suffering weight control issues, the restoration of healthy testosterone levels through TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) could be the first step in a return to better health.