Too Much Estrogen in Your House? Men, Look at Yourselves

A friend just had a third daughter.  I asked how he's doing with all that estrogen in the house.  He rolled his eyes.  But scientists have recently learned that he's contributing, too.

According to Gina Kolata, "Estrogen, the female sex hormone, turns out to play a much bigger role in men’s bodies than previously thought, and falling levels contribute to their expanding waistlines just as they do in women’s."

Until recently, she notes, testosterone deficiency was considered "nearly the sole reason that men undergo the familiar physical complaints of midlife."
A recent study put the end to that way of thinking.

“Some of the symptoms routinely attributed to testosterone deficiency are actually partially or almost exclusively caused by the decline in estrogens,” Kolata quotes Dr. Joel Finkelstein, an endocrinologist at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead author, from a news release put out on Wednesday.      

"While dwindling testosterone levels are to blame for middle-aged men’s smaller muscles, falling levels of estrogen regulate fat accumulation, according to a study published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, which provided the most conclusive evidence to date that estrogen is a major factor in male midlife woes. And both hormones are needed for libido," Kolata relates.      

Both men and women make estrogen out of testosterone, and men make so much that they end up with at least twice as much estrogen as postmenopausal women, whose falling estrogen hormones are replaced by more testosterone.

Until now, researchers have focused almost exclusively on how estrogen affects women and how testosterone affects me n, Kolata writes. But a new study, the Testosterone Trial, had men agree to have their testosterone production turned off for 16 weeks.  Half the men received varying amounts of testosterone, while the other half also got a drug that shuts off estrogen synthesis so the researchers could assess the effects of having testosterone but not estrogen.

Men whose estrogen production was shut down fared the worst, starting to have intense hot flashes and other nasty symptoms part of menopause.

So what are to make of this?  Scientists aren't yet sure.      




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