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For years scientists have associated the male libido with testosterone, but a new study suggests estrogen may also play a key role in men’s sex drive.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found among men being treated for low testosterone, a drop in libido and an increase in body fat could actually be linked to low estrogen.
Around 400 men aged 20 to 50 were involved in the research, each given a treatment to suppress the production of any reproductive hormones at the start of the research.
Half the group was then given another drug to increase estrogen in the body, along with a testosterone gel. The other half was given just the gel or a placebo.
From the results, the scientists realized reducing estrogen in men can result in a reduced sex drive and increased body fat.
“Reducing estrogen in men can
result in a reduced sex drive.”
The study, which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, was led by Joel Finkelstein, who said the findings show how little we understand about reproductive hormones, especially testosterone.
“Even the most basic things we don’t understand about this drug that has been around for almost 80 years,” he said.
Finkelstein and his colleagues determined that while testosterone is the key hormone in terms of lean body mass or muscle strength, it is estrogen that most determines levels of fat accumulation.
Low testosterone is known to lead to a decline in libido among men, but the men in the study who received the estrogen suppressor saw the sharpest decline in sex drive.
“Both sexes require the opposite gender hormone to have adequate libido,” Finkelstein said.
The new data is not expected to change how men are treated for low-T, or low testosterone. While the commercially available treatments on the market now encourage testosterone production, the male body is able to convert it into estrogen as needed.