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Marketing Low Testosterone

May 30, 2013

Marketing campaigns have sparked debate on whether low testosterone related to aging is a condition that needs treatment.

Produced by the testes, testosterone is an important hormone for men. It is involved with sex drive and sperm production as well as secondary sex characteristics like increased muscle mass and facial hair. (Women’s bodies also produce testosterone, but in much smaller amounts.)

Around age 40, men’s testosterone levels start to decline. A man might start to feel weaker, fatigued, or depressed. His libido may suffer, too.  

Testosterone decline is a normal part of aging. However, in recent years, testosterone replacement therapy has been marketed to men as a way to regain their youth. Television commercials and magazine ads have touted testosterone as a magic elixir that could change their lives. “Anti-aging” clinics offering testosterone replacement therapy have opened across the country.

Is testosterone replacement therapy necessary?

For some men, the answer is easy. Men with hypogonadism have low testosterone because their bodies do not produce enough of it. Hypogonadism may be caused by problems in the testes or in parts of the brain responsible for triggering hormone production.

For aging men, however, the answer is tricky. Here are some reasons why:

  • Symptoms of low testosterone, such as fatigue and depression, could be caused by another condition and have nothing to do with testosterone.
  • Symptoms may be easily treated with lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthier diet, exercising more, or socializing with friends.
  • Low testosterone can be hard to define. What is low for one man might be normal for another. Testosterone levels also fluctuate throughout the day. They tend to be highest in the morning.
  • Testosterone replacement therapy hasn’t been widely studied in the long term. Scientists are not sure how long-term testosterone use will affect a man over the course of his life. There may be unknown side effects.

There are also concerns that the increase in marketing may lead men to self-diagnose. Embarrassed about seeing their doctor, they may look for over-the-counter supplements to help their symptoms. But this can be risky.

Overall, the decision to treat low testosterone related to aging is up to a man and his doctor. However, men should understand that testosterone replacement therapy – as it is currently marketed – might not be the answer for them.


The Atlantic

Andriote, John-Manuel

“Should the Modern Man Be Taking Testosterone?”

(April 5, 2013)

Chicago Tribune

Deardorff, Julie

“The reality of ‘low T’”

(March 1, 2012)

Huffington Post

Perrone, Matthew

“Testosterone Marketing Frenzy Draws Skepticism”

(September 9, 2102)

Sexual Medicine Society of North America

“Overview – Low Testosterone”

“Risks and Realities of OTC Testosterone Supplements”

(April 9, 2013)