The results of a new study have helped scientists better understand the link between testosterone levels and osteoporosis.
Low testosterone, which is known as hypogonadism, is common in men of all ages and can cause a decrease in bone mineral density, leading to osteoporosis or osteopenia.
In light of this, researchers at Cornell University in the US sought to better understand the relationship between the two conditions.
The scientists assessed levels of alkaline phosphatase, a protein that is a known indicator of bone turnover – the point at which bones significantly begin to lose density – to see if testosterone-enhancing therapy had an impact.
They discovered that when testosterone levels were below a certain level alkaline phosphatase numbers were progressively higher, suggesting people with low testosterone are more likely to have osteoporosis.
It was also revealed that alkaline phosphatase numbers tended to drop when patients received testosterone-enhancing therapies, meaning assessing levels of the protein could prove important for measuring the effectiveness of such treatment.
This is significant, as alkaline phosphatase can be checked through a test similar to a routine blood test which is far more comfortable and less expensive than a DEXA scan, which measures bone density through a specialized form of x-ray.
The study, results of which were published in the journal BJU International, also found that two years of treatment with topical testosterone can lead to a 20 per cent improvement in mean bone mineral density among men with low testosterone and normalisation of alkaline phosphatase levels.
Darius Paduch, associate professor of urology and of reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, stated: “This study established important clinical information. Showing that testosterone therapy in men with low bone mineral density needs to be long term – at a minimum of two years – to achieve adequate improvement in bone mineral density.
“The study also gives an inexpensive and risk-free, no-radiation marker of monitoring effects of testosterone replacement therapy on bone health,” he added.
A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK commented: “The link between testosterone and osteoporosis is an interesting one, which clinicians need to be aware of. Tobacco is directly toxic to bones and, in men who smoke, is also known to lower testosterone activity, so that’s another reason why men at risk of osteoporosis should stop smoking.”