Introduction:

Testosterone (T) is a powerful male sex hormone produced by the testicles and is responsible for the proper development of male sexual characteristics. It controls sex drive, regulates sperm production, promotes muscle mass, increases energy and also influences human behavior (such as aggression and competitiveness). Levels of testosterone are at highest during adolescence and early adulthood. The first physical signs of testosterone or androgens in the body are apparent during puberty characterized by change in voice; broadening of shoulders and masculinization of facial structure. But as men get older, their testosterone levels decline about 1% per year after age of 30. The changes in testosterone with age in males are given below in the table:

Age Testosterone Level (ng/dL)
0-5 months 75-400
6 months-9 yrs. <7-20
10-11 yrs. <7-130
12-13 yrs. <7-800
14 yrs. <7-1,200
15-16 yrs. 100-1,200
17-18 yrs. 300-1,200
19+ yrs. 240-950
Avg. Adult Male 270-1,070
30+ yrs. -1% per year

In men, serum concentrations of testosterone get decreased to a greater extent with increase in age. This decrease in serum testosterone levels in men is referred as “andropause” or “late-onset hypogonadism (LOH)”. Several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies showed a decline in serum testosterone concentration, an increase in sex hormone-binding globulin concentration (SHBG) and a decrease in free testosterone levels with advancing age. Approximately 2.4 million men, aged 40 to 49 years, have low testosterone levels, with a new diagnosis of about 481,000 androgen deficiency cases a year.

Mechanism of decline in testosterone level during aging:

  • Male hypogonadism is a clinical syndrome caused by lack of androgens and may reflect abnormalities of the hypothalamus, pituitary, testes or target tissues. Testosterone levels found to be reduced in aged men. 20% of men aged over 60 years have total testosterone levels below the normal range and the figure rises to 50% in those aged over 80 years. Levels of gonadotropin rise during aging and testicular secretory responses to human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) are reduced. This shows that reduced testosterone level may be caused primarily by testicular failure.
  • There is also elevation in luteinizing hormone (LH) and the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels (hypergonadotropic hypogonadism). Therefore, it seems like that there are changes in endogenous production of GnRH (gonadotrophin releasing hormone), which cause the changes in LH secretion and play a role in the age related decline in testosterone.
  • With increase in age, there is also a reduction in androgen receptor concentration in some target tissues and this may contribute to hypogonadism or LOH. Thus the decrease in testosterone levels with aging seems to reflect changes at all levels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis

Consequences of low testosterone level during aging in men:

Testosterone is sometimes thought as “fountain of youth” hormone. Decreased testosterones levels lead to changes in sexual function and mood changes including

  • Reduced sexual desire or low libido
  • Fewer spontaneous erections
  • Erectile dysfunction or impotence
  • Osteoporosis
  • Changes in sleep patterns or depression
  • Emotional changes, such as low self-confidence or lack of motivation and energy
  • Physical changes, like increased body fat, reduced muscle bulk and strength, and decreased bone densitynew-1

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Fenugreek extract and its effect on testosterone boosting:

Medically, testosterone deficiency may be treated by using testosterone supplementation i.e. testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which can boost testosterone levels back to normal. Testosterone deficiency can be treated by, intramuscular injections (given anywhere from two to 10 weeks apart), testosterone gel applied to the skin or inside the nose, mucoadhesive material applied above the teeth twice a day, long-acting subcutaneous pellet, testosterone stick (apply like underarm deodorant).  But this therapy has certain risks (such as blood clots and stroke) and side effects (such as sleep apnea, acne, and breast enlargement). Losing excess weight and being physically active can also raise a man’s testosterone level.

In traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda and Homeopathy, herbs and spices have been used since the beginning of time. Fenugreek (Botanical name: Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a plant, cultivated annually in Arabic regions and India, for use in food. The seeds are used as a spice in Indian cooking. Fenugreek seeds contain 45% dietary fiber, vitamins, plant sugars and minerals. Seeds and leaves of fenugreek provide various bioactive components such as steroidal saponins including diosgenin, yamogenin, gitogenin, tigogenin and neotigogens, other bioactive components including choline and trimethylamine, retinol, vitamin D, riboflavin, pyridoxine and essential oils.

Studies on Testosterone Boosting effect of Fenugreek:

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Maintenance of healthy testosterone levels:   

A clinical study conducted by Steels and co workers on 60 healthy males, aged between 25 – 52 years. The duration of the study was six weeks and 600mg extract of fenugreek seeds was consumed orally, by all the subjects. Serum testosterone and prolactin levels were estimated at the end of the study. The major outcome of the study was that levels of testosterone and prolactin were maintained within the normal physiological limits. Increased muscle strength and improved libido was also observed without any change in mood or sleep patterns. So it was concluded from the study that fenugreek extract helps maintain natural healthy testosterone levels.

2. Improvement in lean muscle mass and body composition:

Fenugreek is considered to possess aromatase and reductase inhibitor activities, the enzymes responsible for breakdown of testosterone in body. To determine this activity, a clinical study was conducted by Wilborn and co workers; in three groups of healthy trained men for 2, 4 and 8 weeks and 500mg of fenugreek extract per day was administered to all subjects. Testosterone levels, body fat , muscle gain and strength was evaluated at the end of study. Increase in testosterone levels was observed at the end of the study. A reduction in body fat was also observed that is directly linked to improved androgenic activity. Therefore it was concluded that fenugreek extract improves the testosterone levels by partially blocking the enzymes responsible for breakdown of testosterone.

3. Fenugreek acts by inhibiting enzymes that breakdown testosterone:

Fenugreek is considered to possess aromatase and reductase inhibitor activities, the enzymes responsible for breakdown of testosterone in body. To determine this activity, a clinical study was conducted by Wilborn and co workers; in three groups of healthy trained men for 2, 4 and 8 weeks and 500mg of fenugreek extract per day was administered to all subjects. Testosterone levels, body fat , muscle gain and strength was evaluated at the end of study. Increase in testosterone levels was observed at the end of the study. A reduction in body fat was also observed that is directly linked to improved androgenic activity. Therefore it was concluded that fenugreek extract improves the testosterone levels by partially blocking the enzymes responsible for breakdown of testosterone.

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