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DECEMBER 11, 2007

Testosterone and lifespan

I’ve always thought that the idea of selling your soul to the devil was an interesting idea in theory. Two separate guitar players (Jimi Hendrix as well as Robert Johnson) were rumored to have struck a pact with the devil, as well as several comic book characters- (notably Ghost Rider of Marvel Comics), a character in an Arnold movie (“End of Days”), and even Homer Simpson.

Ghost Rider received a bunch of pretty decent powers for selling his soul (along with apparently receiving starring role in a likewise decent comic book – and one in a slightly less than decent movie). Homer Simpson received a doughnut for his soul, while the character in the Arnold movie just got to live a little longer.

I wonder why nobody ever sells their soul in return for two souls (or the controlling share and stock with the buy-out option in several souls) or something like similar…you know…get a return on the investment and all of that.

Personally, the idea of selling my soul is interesting, because I can only assume it would make my life better momentarily, at which point it would abruptly end (as I’ve seen in books and movies on this topic, the devil has a very clever legal team writing his contracts for him, and there always appears to be some such kind of clause).

The cult of Life Extention believes that you don’t need to sell your soul to live longer…you just need to take some testosterone.

In fact, if you were to believe the life extension community, using anabolic steroids will increase your life span. If you were to believe traditional medicine, it doesn’t make much of a difference in life span.

If you’re me, you believe both sides.

In October of this year, Amy Norton of Reuters reported  older men with low levels of the testosterone seem to die sooner than other men their age with normal testosterone levels. This information came from a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. In this study, examining 794 generally healthy older men, those with the lowest testosterone levels were 40% more apt to die within the study period.
Of course, this study only shows an association between low testosterone and earlier death. This is correlation, not causation. Low testosterone can be a causative/correlateive factor in metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cognitive impairment, heart disease, a poor lipid profile, weak bones, and erectile dysfunction. However, higher levels of testosterone have been positively correlated (and are a likely causative factor) in high levels of lean mass and lower body fat.

So what this study has shown us is that men with naturally low testosterone levels tend to have a sooner check out time. Those with normal to high levels of testosterone get the extended check out and complimentary valet service.

Life Extentionistas will point to this study as confirmation for hormone replacement therapy despite the fact that the authors conclude that their study offers "no support for widespread testosterone therapy for aging men,".

Lower testosterone levels are positively correlated with higher mortality rates…but this doesn’t mean high levels are necessarily associated with living longer – as the life extension Nazis would have you believe. And we need to remember here that they’re talking about natural levels of testosterone…higher levels of natural testosterone later in life could be a result of an overall healthy lifestyle (again, those two are positively correlated). Narcotic use, drinking, smoking, etc...throughout a life can lead to lowered testosterone levels in later years.

So what we have here is a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Do men with low levels of testosterone die sooner as a result of those actual levels or as a result of the lifestyle that led to having them? 

The answer is that I don’t really care…and neither should you.

The fact of the matter is that testosterone increases lean mass, lowers body fat, increases strength,  boosts metabolism, improves cognitive function and memory, aids in bone, ligament, and tendon strength, gives an improved sense of well-being, aids sexual function, etc, etc, etc…

So who cares if helps you live a couple extra years or not?

Testosterone therapy is going to help you live better, if not longer. And personally, those last 20 years of my life don’t look so appealing to me without testosterone (although I’m still not even 30 years old). I suspect that testosterone will likely add a couple of years on to your life if you’re a man, although I don’t think that the research has demonstrated this satisfactorily yet…but as I said already I don’t care.

Testosterone (and many other anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs) will help me live better, stronger, and fitter – and I’d rather live my life feeling as good as possible, not just as long as possible.

What I’m saying, I suppose, is that while I’m not willing to sell my soul just to live longer, I’d certainly be willing to bet anything that I can live a better life with high testosterone levels than I can without them.

Oh…and I’ll take that Golden Fiddle now, too.



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