October 18, 2007 / 6:54 PM / in 12 years

Low male hormones may predict metabolic syndrome

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - As men age they are more likely than women to develop symptoms of metabolic syndrome, including increased belly size, high blood pressure, and cholesterol and blood sugar abnormalities; and study findings also suggest that low male hormone levels may predict an increased metabolic syndrome risk.

For 5.8 years, Dr. Annabelle Rodriguez, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and colleagues looked at the relationship between metabolic syndrome in 618 men, average age 63 years, and the amount of male hormones circulating in their blood.

While levels of male hormones naturally decline with age, the researchers found that among study participants of the same age those who developed metabolic syndrome had lower androgen levels, specifically levels of sex hormone binding globulin and total testosterone.

The distribution of the syndrome by age was 4 percent in men between 20 and 39 years, rising to 21 percent of men between 40 and 79, and then declining slightly to 18 percent for men 80 to 94 years old.

These findings are consistent with previous research showing an association between lower androgen levels and higher risk of metabolic syndrome, the investigators note.

As expected, other risk factors for metabolic syndrome included abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high triglyceride cholesterol and abnormal blood glucose levels, the researchers report in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

“The problem of male hypogonadism and its contribution to metabolic syndrome is probably overlooked or not well appreciated by health care providers,” Rodriguez told Reuters Health.

Obesity, specifically abdominal obesity, is common in the U.S. population, and the frequency of this problem increases with aging. Therefore, Rodriguez observed, “men should speak to their health care providers regarding the possibility of low androgen levels increasing the risk for the metabolic syndrome.”

However, this study did not examine whether androgen replacement therapy would benefit men with lower androgen levels and metabolic syndrome, Rodriguez cautioned.

SOURCE: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, September 2007.

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