Childhood & Upbringing Affects Male Testosterone Levels as an Adult

July 18, 2019

Men's Health

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When it comes to testosterone production in men, the testicles are the main manufacturing spot, along with some help from the adrenal glands. When it comes to what determines your set point testosterone level as an adult, it’s generally been accepted that genetics and race are key factors, unless disease such as hypogonadism or HIV/AIDS are involved. But now researchers are saying that childhood may affect male testosterone levels.

Testosterone and set point

Set point is the desired value for a specific variable, such as testosterone or weight. According to set point theory when it comes to weight, your body will fight to maintain a certain weight range that has been established as its set point. If you go below your body’s natural set point, your metabolism and appetite adjust so your body will return to your set point. That is, your metabolism may slow down so you won’t lose weight.

Set point for testosterone has been believed to be determined by one’s genetics and race. Research has shown that Mexican-American adolescents and adults, for example, have higher testosterone concentrations than do non-Hispanic blacks and whites.

Childhood may affect male testosterone levels

Researchers at Durham University in the United Kingdom report that exposure to certain stressors during childhood as well as where you grew up help to determine the set point for testosterone as an adult. The team evaluated 359 men with different life histories and were most interested in what they found about men who had moved from Bangladesh to the United Kingdom during childhood as compared with those who migrated as adults or who stayed in Bangladesh.

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Researchers found that males who had moved to Britain during childhood had significantly higher testosterone levels and reached puberty earlier when compared with men who did not leave Bangladesh. The young males who left their country also left behind factors that may be the reason for their higher T levels.

According to the researchers, one possible reason for this difference in testosterone levels is exposure to stressors during childhood, such as needing to fight off infections or making the difficult migration to the UK. The authors noted that men who moved to the United Kingdom as adults did not show high testosterone levels, so it appears the disparity is related to childhood experiences.

Bottom line

The finding that childhood may affect male testosterone levels is of interest because it may help explain the wide range of what is considered to be “normal” testosterone levels in men. Young males who are raised in stressful homes, unsanitary conditions, or war zones and who don’t leave their country at all or not until they are adults may not show high testosterone set points when compared with young males who do leave their country behind. This is obviously an area that requires much more investigation.

References

Lopez DS et al. Racial/ethnic differences in serum sex steroid hormone concentrations in US adolescent males. Cancer Causes and Control 2013 Apr; 24(4): 10.1007

Magid K et al. Childhood ecology influences salivary testosterone, pubertal age and stature of Bangladeshi UK migrant men. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2018; 2:1146-54

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