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Low testosterone levels could raise diabetes risk for men


Scientists of the University of Edinburgh, funded by Diabetes UK, have completed a study directly indicating that men with low testosterone levels are at higher risk of vaious conditions.

Low testosterone equates to an increased risk of insulin resistance, development of obesity and type-2 diabetes, and an increased risk of type-2 diabetes is particularly prevalent in older males when testosterone levels are in natural decline.

Testosterone is part of a group of hormones called androgens that control fat (lipid) storage in body fat (adipose tissue). When androgens bind to androgen receptors on the outside of the adipose tissue, genetic changes occur are associated with obesity and diabetes. Low testosterone levels in males has now been found to link to genetic changes causing obesity, and according to Diabetes UK there is a direct link between obesity and diabetes. The Diabetes UK website states obesity in adults is expected to rise by 73% over the next 20 years resulting in one million new type-2 diabetes cases.

The study showed the link by comparing normal mice to mice with no androgen receptors for testosterone. The mice with no androgen receptors were more at risk of developing insulin resistance without a noticeable change in body weight. Insulin resistance leads to development of diabetes. Only when both groups were fed a high fat diet the mice with no androgen receptors became fatter and developed full insulin resistance. These findings reinforce the advice by Diabetes UK that everyone should eat a healthy, balanced diet, particularly if you’re at a high risk of developing type-2 diabetes.

Dr Kerry McInnes, from the University of Edinburgh’s Endocrinology Unit, said: 'this study shows that low testosterone is a risk factor for diabetes no matter how much a person weighs. As men age their testosterone levels decline, and this, along with increasing national obesity, will increase the incidence of diabetes.'

When testosterone levels are impaired, a crucial protein, RBP4, acts in regulating insulin resistance. The researchers discovered that mice with low levels of testosterone had elevated levels of RBP4. To develop a new treatment for diabetes in low testosterone males, researchers are now planning to study patients with Type-2 diabetes to see if their levels of testosterone correlate with levels of RBP 4.

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said, 'further work is needed to translate these initial findings into clinical practice, as it is important to emphasise that results in mice may not necessarily have direct relevance for humans. But good basic research such as this represents early steps towards potential new treatments and we are pleased to see research we have funded producing useful results which may benefit people living with diabetes at some point in the future.'

Diabetes UK is the leading UK charity that cares for, connects with and campaigns on behalf of all people affected by and at risk of diabetes. Through a range of research funding schemes, Diabetes UK supports researchers engaged in projects committed to improving the care and treatment of diabetes, preventing it from developing in those at risk and, ultimately, finding a cure. For more information on all aspects of diabetes and access to Diabetes UK activities and services, visit


Robert A. Spakovskis


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