My teenager is not maturing as fast as his peers. His voice has barely changed, he has virtually no facial or body hair, and at 14 he is one of the shortest boys in his class (my wife and I are both above average in height). He is also often tired and is more than a little chubby. Lately he’s become obsessed with the idea that his problem is low testosterone. He constantly feeds me YouTube videos and screenshots of internet advertisements and tries to convince me that he needs testosterone supplements. Could he be right? I thought low testosterone only affected older men.
The answer to your question is yes and no. Yes, he could indeed have low testosterone (often referred to as Low-T). But no (no, no, no), he definitely shouldn’t start taking supplements or do anything to “treat” the problem until it’s been properly diagnosed by a professional. And by professional, I mean a trained medical professional who will perform the appropriate clinical tests to measure testosterone levels and other biomarkers, who is committed to identifying underlying issues and overcoming them rather than you sell a bunch of pills or other treatments. Stay far, far away from anyone (including advice columnists) who claims to be able to diagnose and treat low testosterone or other medical conditions without having actual contact (in person or, in some cases, virtually) with the patient.
Testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone that, in boys, helps regulate many markers of sexual maturity, including hair growth, muscle mass, and voice changes. (Girls also produce testosterone and this also influences their sexual maturity, but to a much lesser extent.) Testosterone also plays a role in mood, fat distribution, and energy levels.
The symptoms you described may or may not be caused by low testosterone. For example, several studies have shown that testosterone levels in obese teenagers are half of what they are in normal-weight boys. But does obesity cause low testosterone or is it the other way around?
When it comes to your son’s energy levels, if he has a weight problem, chances are he’s not getting enough exercise. Lack of exercise contributes to lack of energy. But low energy can have many other causes, including vitamin D deficiency. Body hair, height, and voice changes? Maybe testosterone – or maybe your son is slowly maturing. Puberty is hitting kids at a younger age these days, but not everyone is fully mature at 14.
If it turns out that your son’s testosterone is low, the biggest concern is why. In boys, testosterone is produced in the testicles (hence the similar names), and an abnormality could affect the levels. A number of genetic conditions and prescription medications can lower testosterone. And then there is the antibacterial soap. Yes, soap.
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration banned an antibacterial/antimicrobial chemical called triclosan, which Dr. Stephen Giorgianni, an advisor to the Men’s Health Network, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, said was an ingredient in a wide variety of personal products. cleaning products, including soap, shampoo, dishwashing liquid, deodorant and even some toothpaste.
“The problem with triclosan is that chemically it resembles testosterone and functions as a sort of Trojan horse,” Giorgianni said. “When fake testosterone enters the bloodstream, our body thinks it’s the real thing and stops producing natural testosterone. As a result, the boy or man may develop a real drop in testosterone levels and start to show symptoms.
However, despite the FDA ban, triclosan can still be used in consumer products, including toys, bedding, fabrics, and other products that are not regulated by the FDA. While it’s not clear if the levels of triclosan in these products are correct, the safest thing to do if you see it on the ingredient panel is to buy something else.
At the end of the line ? Have your son see his pediatrician and do more research on low testosterone at menshealthnetwork.org.
Armin Brott is the author of “Blueprint for Men’s Health”, “Your Head: An Owner’s Manual” and many other books on men’s health. This column was provided by Tribune News Service.