Posted on Jun 28, 2018, 8 p.m.
New Durham University research suggests that men’s testosterone levels are largely determined by childhood environments, as published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
Men who grew up in more challenging conditions such as where there were more infectious disease are likely to have lower testosterone levels later in life than those with childhoods spent in healthier environments according to researchers explaining their theory challenging the current theory of testosterone levels being controlled by race or genetics.
High testosterone levels can lead to increased risk of prostate enlargement and cancer, screening risk profiles should include taking childhood environments into account according to the researchers. Who go on to add differences are linked to energy investment, it may only be possible to have high testosterone levels if there is not much demand placed on the body by other functions such as fighting off infections; environments which expose poor nutrition and disease to developing males direct energy towards survival do so at the cost of testosterone.
Data was collected from 359 men including things such as weight, height, and age of puberty along with other health information and saliva samples to examine testosterone levels. Researcher compared groups according to: men born and residing in Bangladesh; men born in Bangladesh that moved to the UK as children; men born in Bangladesh that move to the UK as adults; second generation UK born men whose parents immigrated from Bangladesh; and men that were UK born ethnic Europeans.
Men who grew up in Bangladeshi and lived in the UK as adults have been found to have significantly higher levels of testosterone compared to well off men who grew up and lived in Bangladesh as adults. Bangladeshis men in the UK reached puberty at a younger age and were taller than men men who lived in Bangladesh in their childhood.
Men with high testosterone levels are at increased risk of potential adverse effects of the hormone on health and aging. Very high levels can increase muscle mass, increase risk of prostate disease, and has been linked to higher aggression. Low testosterone levels can cause lack of energy, loss of libido, and erectile dysfunction. Participants in the study all had levels in a range that would be unlikely to have impacts on fertility.
Male reproductive function aspects remain changeable into adolescence up to 19 years of age and are more flexible in early childhood rather than later, testosterone levels are no longer heavily influenced by their surroundings in adulthood, according to the researchers. In previous work the team has found that environment also affects female hormone levels, fertility, and risks for reproductive cancers as adults as well.
Materials provided by Durham University.
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Kesson Magid, Robert T. Chatterton, Farid Uddin Ahamed, Gillian R. Bentley. Childhood ecology influences salivary testosterone, pubertal age and stature of Bangladeshi UK migrant men. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0567-6