As men age, testosterone levels drop. The possible results are not pretty:
- higher body fat
- decreased muscle mass
- low energy levels
- lower sperm production, libido and sexual function
Normal aging perhaps, yet this “male menopause” is often counteracted with synthetic hormone.
But a funny thing happened when scientists were studying probiotics and obesity. The male mice treated with lactic acid bacteria had larger testicles and higher testosterone levels. What’s more, mice consuming Lactobacillus reuteri had “increased seminiferous tubule cross-sectional profiles and increased spermatogenesis and Leydig cell numbers per testis when compared with matched diet counterparts.” Changes in Leydig cells lead to low testosterone levels.
Recently, researchers wondered if these positive changes were due to anti-inflammatory properties of L. reuteri. Their work appears in PLoS One.
A possible mechanism? They found that antibodies blocked pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-17A.
“These results indicate that gut microbiota induce modulation of local gastrointestinal immunity resulting in systemic effects on the immune system which activate metabolic pathways that restore tissue homeostasis and overall health,” wrote the authors.
Testosterone therapy has harmful side effects. Possible risks include:
- Prostate cancer—not definitive
- Liver toxicity
- Heart failure
- Benign prostatic hypertrophy
Nevertheless, usage of testosterone replacement has soared in the past few years, especially in the United States. It is thought that serum testosterone levels decline gradually, with about a 1% annual decline after age 30.
If microbial therapy can offset the waning of the hormone and restore youthful qualities, it may one day prove to be a natural prevention of unhealthful aging characteristics.