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THE TRUTH ABOUT TESTOSTERONE

Testosterone fuels everything from your muscle growth and sexual performance to your mental focus, but many men are unaware of their declining hormone levels. So how can you test yourself? And can natural dietary and lifestyle upgrades keep you on track?

Testosterone has acquired a dark reputation. You read about it in the news whenever an athlete like sprinter Justin Gatlin or cyclist Lance Armstrong is caught taking illegal steroids, which mimic the performance-boosting effects of natural testosterone. You see TV reports about drug abuse in gyms, with a 600% surge in the use of testosterone-aping steroids in some parts of the country. Even medical reports tend to have a negative slant: researchers have linked abnormally high levels of testosterone with everything from infidelity to aggression. The primary male sex hormone has unhelpfully become synonymous with toxic behaviour – the sinister hormonal force behind every reprehensible act committed by a male, from misogyny to sexual assault.

But testosterone – which is produced in the testes and regulated by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland – is as natural and functional as the skin on your face, the bones in your legs, the rhythmic beating of your heart, and the muscles in your arms. Indeed, it plays a vital role in all those body parts and more. The illegal use of testosterone-mirroring drugs, rare cases of supra-physiological (higher than normal) levels of testosterone, and wanton criminal or antisocial behaviour should never blind anyone to the truth that this hormone is essential to the active and emotional life of every man on Earth.

“The headline function of testosterone is in the growth of the testes and prostate and in the development of the primary sexual characteristics of men,” explains Dr Clive Morrison, a specialist in genitourinary medicine, sexual health and diabetes at the Centre For Men’s Health. “It also has anabolic [tissue-building] effects on muscle mass and strength, as well as on bone mass and strength. It affects the vitality of the penis and testes and secondary sexual characteristics such as voice and body hair.”

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