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'Alarming' low testosterone levels found in obese teenage boys
October 12th, 2012
03:04 PM ET

'Alarming' low testosterone levels found in obese teenage boys

Obese teenage boys are at risk for more than diabetes and heart disease, a new study has found. They also have alarmingly low levels of testosterone - between 40 to 50% less than males of the same age with a normal body mass index.

The study, published this week in the journal Clinical Endocrinology, investigated the effect of obesity on testosterone levels in young males.

It has its origins in earlier research, which showed that type II diabetes and obesity in older men are linked to a high rate (25-33%) of hypogonadism, or low testosterone levels. According to the new study, the rate of hypogonadism in type II diabetic men ages 18-35 is greater than 50%.

In addition, concentrations of free testosterone — testosterone that isn’t chemically bound and thus available to the body — were shown to be negatively related to BMI:  The higher the body mass, the lower the concentration.

“This raises the question whether obesity is associated with lower testosterone concentrations, even in younger males,” the study said.

Controlling for age, physical maturity and certain medical factors, 25 obese and 25 lean males between the ages of 14 and 20 were studied.

Blood samples were drawn in the morning to measure both total and free testosterone.

Mean testosterone concentration was 50% lower in obese males. Mean free testosterone concentration was 46% lower.

The results present several problems for those affected, according to Dr. Paresh Dandona, chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the University of Buffalo’s medical school and the study’s lead author.

Obesity can lead to diabetes and heart disease. What’s more, low testosterone can slow or stop sexual maturation — and there’s nothing more hurtful than “a male not having his maleness,” Dandona said.

“It’s alarming, because these guys could grow up to be inadequate in sexual performance and also in terms of fertility,” he said.

The next step is a larger study to confirm the findings as well as investigate more questions, such how the hypothalamus part of the brain is “turned off” when triggering the pituitary gland to produce testosterone — and how it might be turned back on.

The brain’s mechanisms are especially important, Dandona said, because it’s there that the problem begins.

Research has shown that adults who have gastric bypass surgery return to normal testosterone levels. It’s possible that weight loss alone would have a similar effect.

There is no confirmation yet if this holds true for teenaged males.

For cautious parents, the best first step is to be proactive against obesity, doctors say.

“Because that’s the passport to disaster in the long-term,” Dandona said - “diabetes, heart disease and now inadequate sexual maturation.”


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soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. D.I.

    It isn't a surprise. The body when it is under high amounst of continual stress will do what it can to reduce stress as much as possible. Testosterone works much like adrenaline. Also look at the fact that there is reduced blood flow to the whole body, so extra functions that the body doesn't need as much will be ruduced to maximize the needed functions. The body will produce more if more starts getting used- and it can be used for muscle development. Fixing their diet and getting to be more active physically will solve this in a short amount of time.

    October 12, 2012 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • I Don't Think So

      Nope.

      Estodiol is produced by the conversion testosterone, in a process called aromatization. This conversion requires aromatase. Aromase is found in high levels in adipocytes (fat cells). This is the mechanism that best describes elevated estrogen in obese males.

      This also explains why obese women are at an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

      October 12, 2012 at 23:53 | Report abuse |
    • I Don't Think So

      s/b Estrodiol is produced by the conversion of testosterone...

      October 13, 2012 at 00:42 | Report abuse |
  2. Cherries

    I wonder if the results would be similar in obese female teens...

    October 12, 2012 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • fyre

      I think estrogen is increased in overweight girls – I know that the average onset of puberty is earlier due to obesity.

      October 12, 2012 at 20:11 | Report abuse |
  3. tesla1908

    What difference does it make? Fat kids don't get laid anyway.

    October 12, 2012 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Daniel

      Haha. Tesla>Edison.

      October 12, 2012 at 18:21 | Report abuse |
    • sean

      nice !

      October 12, 2012 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I think your mom would disagree.

      October 12, 2012 at 18:38 | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      There are always the Chubby Chasers.

      October 12, 2012 at 19:57 | Report abuse |
    • LogicalOne

      You said fat kids don't get laid? Obviously you haven't been to the local Walmart watching the fat and unmarried teenagers dragging toddlers around the store. Very sad situation for all involved. Sometimes I think the toddlers were created for visible proof to brag to the world that the overweight teenager was obviously wanted by someone. Obese lonely teenagers ruining their futures by having kids while still being kids. I miss the '50's full of skinny kids actually being kids and not rushing into grown up problems of sex before they are mentally ready and can AFFORD the kids.

      October 12, 2012 at 19:59 | Report abuse |
    • edofmtl

      Just tell this to the child. If you are fat, your dink won't grow. Then stand back and watch the pounds fall off the overweight kid.

      October 12, 2012 at 22:18 | Report abuse |
  4. Glitterbuns

    The result would likely be the same for obese female teens, as well as many obese female adults and males. I have a disease called PCOS (Poly cystic ovarian syndrome). One of the symptoms of this disease is a higher testosterone level, lower levels of progesterone, and higher levels of estrogen. This combination causes a person to gain weight more rapidly than the average person, and harder to lose than average. I have lost weight in the past, and was able to get my PCOS in "remission". You have to keep your diet very strict though, which feels at times impossible, and pregnancy seemed to make my condition worse.

    October 12, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. lol

    thats right fatty time to man up

    October 12, 2012 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Fatty Boombladdy

    Is CNN now posting biological science discoveries articles from the 1980's now? This has been known for decades I am pretty sure...

    October 12, 2012 at 18:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Rock

    Nice, love how everyone jumps right in to attack these kids. We're raising a country of armchair a holes.

    October 12, 2012 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BiggerThomas

      Agreed. It is sad the level of habitual hating that goes on in America. Armchair a holes for sure. It really is weird to me and bizarre that people so naturally want to and then do hate on people so consistently. It is simply bizarre.

      October 12, 2012 at 20:52 | Report abuse |
    • pastorcal77

      Bigger Thomas, you're confused because you're unintelligent. Reality shall forever remain a mystery to you.

      October 12, 2012 at 21:03 | Report abuse |
  8. George Costanza

    Dr. Dandona sounds incapable of critical thought. Why is lower testosterone bad? Lower sexual performance? Not "male" enough? Testosterone is the one-armed man behind every single violent act ever committed by human beings. 50% reduction in young men is a blessing. Net benefit for humanity: 50% reduction in atrocities.

    October 12, 2012 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kleptiko

      Costanza, all you're doing is spouting gender-feminist mythology. There isn't a shred of evidence that likes normal testosterone to 'violence', nor is there evidence that females are inherantly non-violent.
      You seem to be an ideologically driven anti-male, and an 'effeminist' to boot. If you really are a George, perhaps a removal of gonads is indicated in your case.

      October 12, 2012 at 19:42 | Report abuse |
    • mistasmarts

      uhhh testosterone is a very important hormone in the body.

      October 12, 2012 at 19:43 | Report abuse |
    • keiyuuki

      I agree. Low Testosterone is NOT bad. Its something the United States desperately needs LESS of!

      October 12, 2012 at 20:54 | Report abuse |
    • BiggerThomas

      Do you even have any understanding of biology? Anatomy? Biophysics? All people...that means both genders, need testosterone for healthy physical functioning. A boy's body is designed to begin producing more (Meaning the natural progression of his development of various elements of his endocrine system – namely testosterone) testosterone as he basically begins to exercise. Therefore is is critically important that kids get physical exercise. Thus the various sorts of programs that each US president initiates around exercise for kids since the 70's.

      If kids are overweight then they likely do not exercise enough and the process is then retarded/regressed and a major growth cycle for the body is missed and can't really be made up. So the moral of the story is this:
      1. Stop hating on people. Especially children.
      2. Learn something about your own health and body
      3. Get a clue and stop being one of the worlds greatest losers while making ridiculous comments like the ignorant one you did above that compelled me to write this in response.

      October 12, 2012 at 21:14 | Report abuse |
    • TxPharm

      Completely ridiculous assumptions. Without testosterone the human race would die out, since it is responsible for libido in BOTH males and females. Hypogonadal males die earlier, are overweight, more diabetes, heart disease, bone loss, loss of lean muscle,depression, and increased incidence of dementia.Females have 1/10the levels of testosterone in males, and it very important for them as well, for the same reasons as men.

      October 12, 2012 at 21:53 | Report abuse |
    • BiggerJohnson

      so all we males are on drugs and act out accordingly b/c we have testosterone in coursing our veins? great logic. so do you teach "women's studies" or are you just an obese male with droopy weenie syndrome? apparently that evil testosterone hasnt affected you.just your "thinking".

      October 12, 2012 at 22:36 | Report abuse |
    • adh1729

      Survival of the fittest would seem to imply that testosterone aint bad at all. Gaining weight to cut testosterone, to cut crime, sounds mighty dumb.

      Ever heard of self-control? That is something that toddlers are supposed to learn from their parents. The problem with society today is, so many people have flunked kindergarten. (And, morality is SO old-fashioned.)

      It is amazing that animals can learn just about anything when B.F. Skinner is teaching, but humans are thought to be incapable of learning, and at the mercy of their hormones and their biology. Big joke. Go watch the ants, you lazy slob.

      October 13, 2012 at 00:12 | Report abuse |
  9. juan

    The other question is about the BM in those included in the study: What is the threshold (of the BM) above which is expected to have lower levels of testosterone

    October 12, 2012 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BiggerJohnson

      a BMI of about 6" is indicated I think Juan.

      October 12, 2012 at 22:38 | Report abuse |
  10. Mr.ChefMan

    Everyone knows that fat kids have higher estrogen,lower testosterone,in both genders.

    fatty's are more girly LOLOLOLOLOL

    October 12, 2012 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Joe

    @ pastorcal77
    I think all on this page can see that you are void of any sort of intelligence what so ever. Is it true that you drag your knuckles on the ground; perhaps drinking in the second trimester?

    October 12, 2012 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. CC

    Does fatness cause low testosterone or does low testosterone cause fatness? Or are fatness and low testosterone caused by some third factor like lack of exercise. The article is heavy on the sensationalism and light on the analysis. Do we want to help the kids or have fun at their expense?

    October 12, 2012 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pastorcal77

      I'd rather have fun at their expense and leave the complex feedback loops to the experts.

      October 12, 2012 at 20:03 | Report abuse |
    • BiggerThomas

      Lack of exercise retards the development and initiation of the growth process of testosterone production. They simply don't exercise enough and/or at early enough ages.

      October 12, 2012 at 21:19 | Report abuse |
    • BiggerThomas

      The type of food being consumed, particularly the meat with various estrogen based hormones, is part of the issue as well. But it is mostly the lack of exercise.

      October 12, 2012 at 21:21 | Report abuse |
    • BiggerJohnson

      I have to think "fatness" is caused by being unable to keep one's hand out of one's mouth esp regards eating too many sugary carbs, sitting on your fat a$s playing vids and watching TV and lastly by letting your Mommy teach you how she thinks a man should act, ie like a man wuss who looks and acts like a woman.

      October 12, 2012 at 22:47 | Report abuse |
  13. Jimbojoe

    aw dammit, wonder if I it's stopped growing or if losing weight in my twenties would help any... with it...

    October 12, 2012 at 20:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh

      That's a very good question. I'm sure they have studies out about that as well. As far as I know from what I have learned through health classes in high school and college, sexual maturation stops with puberty. For males, puberty I believe stops at about age 16-18. Either way losing weight is beneficial for all aspects of your life. More energy, healthier heart, and decrease in the risk of diabetes are all good things for your life.

      October 12, 2012 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
  14. Josh

    I think it's disgusting to see the amount of unneeded insults on here. It's because of people like the ones commenting on here that our country is going down the tubes.

    The most important thing to do is to start getting these studies to the schools and get the obese kids help. Many of these kids suffer because the family lets them suffer. Bad diet habits are taught at home and follow kids throughout their whole life. If schools would become a little bit more involved in kids that they know are at risk at an early age we wouldn't have these problems.

    I was an obese child and teenager and am speaking from first hand experience. I attended a school that was big into the "fitness program" but it stopped in gym class. There were no teachers letting my parents know that they needed to get me help. Sometimes outside sources need to get involved to let the parents know the secondary risks of being obese, not just the increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

    October 12, 2012 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mel

      "Many of these kids suffer because the family lets them suffer." I don't think its quite that simple. Consider the socioeconomic status of the family. Can mom and dad afford to buy organic meats and vegetables? Or are their meager wages allowing the consumption of more canned foods? What is the atmosphere of the family's environment? Does mom and dad have the time to encourage their kids to play sports (e.g. going to soccer games, picking them up and dropping them off at football practice, etc.)? Or is dad working a 12 hour shift and mom working 8 hours (but coming home to take care of the house hold chores), leaving both exhausted at the end of the day?

      October 17, 2012 at 14:58 | Report abuse |
  15. Maelius

    DUH!!! sheesh how long has it been understood that obesity affects hormones, sheesh! Of course testosterone is low in obese boys. There is a reason why obesity and ED have a direct correlation!

    October 12, 2012 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MCR

      But not everyone is aware, as evidenced by the number of parents who do nothing to correct, or even recognize, their children's weight problems. Articles like this are an effort to get fathers on board in working to fix the problem

      October 19, 2012 at 19:21 | Report abuse |
  16. Pinkflam

    "'Alarming' low testosterone levels found in obese teenage boys"
    Are you kidding me? Obese teenage boys are obese BECAUSE of low testosterone levels, not the other way around.

    October 12, 2012 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. J A

    So is it the lack of testosterone and increased estrogen that may be in part causing obesity. There has been a lot of estrogen getting into food and water supplies.

    October 12, 2012 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Ipploit

    GOOD! This is natural selection, the last thing we want is the fatties continuing to breed. The simple fact is, there are too many humans around. The other fact is most fat people are fat because they lack discipline. The rest suffer from genetic abnormalities. Either way society is better off getting them out of the gene pool.

    October 12, 2012 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. DC

    American males are such nutless creatures anyways, good riddance.

    October 12, 2012 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ipploit

      HA! You are talking about at most 25% of US males the rest of us are so far superior to the rest of the planet's average male it is not even funny. Want proof, just check the stats from the Olympics. We own both the bottom 10% and the top 10% of humanity.

      October 12, 2012 at 21:01 | Report abuse |
  20. Juliag

    This is a serious issue. I see so much negativity towards girls and body image but wonder about the boys in this. Many boys in my daughter's class are overweight. Yet, it seems more socially OK for boys to be obese than girls. But we all know, it really isn't (when it comes to dates, societal judgement etc) My son plays tennis w/ some heftier boys and they can't move as quick/agile as he can. It seriously makes me sad. I see so much potential in all these young people. And it is being limited by their weight. Not just their athletic successes, but self confidence. They know it. These are the same boys that drop out of tennis or a sport after a few weeks because they are embarrassed. I see the concern in the parents faces. I have a co worker w/ an overweight 9 yo daughter and he can barely find any community resources for safe, medically guided pediatric weight loss. We all need to stop laughing about this and figure out what we can do to combat this. Low testosterone is not funny stuff people. More answers are needed. My kids are not allowed sugary drinks or dessert or lots of snacking. beyond that, I can claim no great superiority aside from genetics (dad and I are pretty slim, yes, we exercise and don't eat snacks etc.. but we aren't killing ourselves either so we may have a good metabolism too)>

    October 12, 2012 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lem

      Exercise and eat less.

      Look up the first law of thermodynamics. Follow it and you wont get fat.

      October 12, 2012 at 21:57 | Report abuse |
    • Kids

      Yeah I don't allow sugary drinks for my daughter. Not only will it make her fat, but it rots kids teeth. I don't won't her to have problems with her teeth either. We allow a desert once in a while, everyone deserves a treat once in a while, but it within limits. She plays soccer, gymnastics, and swims. This helps her to be a healthy and confident kid. Fat kids are the parents fault.

      October 12, 2012 at 23:33 | Report abuse |
  21. lem

    In other news, water is wet.

    October 12, 2012 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. legemeaux

    why must we be subjected to weekly "bombshells" on the endless negative side effects of obesity? There is no upside to being fat. period.

    October 12, 2012 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Ed from VA

    As a kid, I was fat and had seasonal asthma from 13-25. I ate the same food as my brothers and sister and they were all skinny. In high school, I rode my bike 5 miles each way and then back up steep hills and kept the same weight. By the way, I was the eldest and worked my ass off near Scranton, PA. No fast foods back then. Kids were out during the summer. After college, I rigorously lost weight by exercise and diet. My baby brother was fat and dieted himself down recently. A sister and two brothers in their 60s are skinny and a 50ish brother is also slender. My Dad died at 91 and was skinny. He also gave me Type II Diabetes from his side of the family family and both my parents had their right hips replaced- Guess what? Two years ago at 64 I had my right hip replaced also. Coincidence or genetics?

    As far as testosterone levels, I have 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls) plus 4 grand children- I have been told by several women over many years (including my wife) that my "manhood package" is bigger than normal. As I understand, my skinny brothers are also well endowed- coincidence or genetics?

    I honestly believe that chemicals that are in packaging and foods- such as BPA and high fructose corn syrup)- are put there by major companies (biggest offender is the Chinese) to maximize profits. Well, look at the sky rocketing medical costs for all diseases and obesity as well. A lot of these chemicals are estrogen boosters and testosterone killers.

    Pastorcal77, BTW, are you obese or skinny? Gay bashers are really gay. Could you be bashing the "fatties" because you are fat? I could care less- Hitler decided to blame the Communists, then the Jews, the mentally handicapped and then the physically handicapped for Germany's problems. Neanderthal mindsets are anethema to the majority of Americans.

    You need to become more compassionate if indeed you are a Man of God! May God enlighten you!

    October 12, 2012 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. low self esteem symptoms

    No wonder obese men get boobs...they're losing testosterone and I bet increasing estrogen levels.

    October 12, 2012 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. randomcnn

    I wanted to make a response to the hateful comment that was almost no worse than a direct threat on these kids lives, but there were too many of them for me to chose from.

    First of all, it is highly unlikely that any of you that are belittling these overweight kids have developed any greater than they have. Second, it is important to understand what this type of news, and future news on the same subject, actually mean. Basically, these kids lives, really are out of their hands, and it really is up to the parents to raise their kids properly so that they may develop properly.

    There is some truth in blaming your parents for all of your problems kids.

    October 12, 2012 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. randomcnn

    Usually the only people who make fun of fat people are scrawny people, because they aren't fit either but they have the leverage over fat people as far as looks. Well guess what scrawny boy, science tells us that fat people have more matter to work with as far as muscle building is concerned, so theoretically the fat guy is always stronger than the skinny guy if both of them were to exercise as frequently as the other one.

    October 12, 2012 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Alex

    Constantly bathing our bodies in insulin is the problem here, it turns men into women and women into men... basically...excess insulin, over a period of time, makes females convert estrogen into testosterone and males convert testosterone into estrogen.... this fact alone should tell all of us that humans are not meant to live on a plant based diet.
    The government, doctors, the USDA, the ADA, etc. all need to stop telling us to eat less fat and more "healthy whole grains." Grain is is one of the many forms of sugar that we are overeating and it's making us fat and sick. Tell your teenage boy that high sugar consumption will make him less masculine and teach him what foods are actually sugar: all juices, all regular sodas, all grains, all fruits, all vegetables, all starches, all fat-free sweetened milk, etc... make both lean and fatty proteins, healthy fats, butter, olive oil, coconut oil, nut butters available in your home along with lots of less sugary veggies and fruits and watch them make better choices all on their own. Time to go back to packing lunches from home too. Don't count on the government or your doctor to give you good nutrition advice, learn for yourselves.

    October 13, 2012 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. I know!

    The moral of the story: No bad choices escape the judgement of Darwin.

    October 14, 2012 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. The Moral of the story

    No bad choices escape the wrath of Darwin.

    October 14, 2012 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Sara

    If your child is overweight it is your job as a parent to aid in making a change. Stop buying sugary anything other then fruit. Stop buying processed carbohydrates and fried foods. These three items lead to obesity along with inactivity. If you love your child, you will help them.

    October 15, 2012 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Fred S

    More proof the liberal progressive agenda is causing the obesity epidemic. The feminizing of males is the root to all problems.

    October 16, 2012 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Higgypop

    I remember while reading Victor Frankl's book on the Holocaust, Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning, that he mentioned that the people who were considered "fit" did not last very long and it was the people who were unfit that stood a far better chance of surviving starvation type conditions such as the ones that the poor unfortunates who had to undergo the horrible starvation conditions of Nazi era "Ghettos" experienced. I also remember reading reports that our country's (US) food supply is on a three day food availability "system". There is only enough food warehoused to feed our nation's populace for three days. Maybe what I read was wrong. But what if it wasn't? Studies have also shown you fare far better burning off fat when no food is available than when your body is burning off muscle. Let us hope we never have a desperate situation happen where we find out.

    October 20, 2012 at 00:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. nerakecarg

    I've heard from this site http://www.bio-identical-testosterone.com/ obesity may really occur to those who suffers from low testosterone! Thank for this post by the way!

    December 5, 2012 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. nerakecarg

    I've heard from this site http://www.bio-identical-testosterone.com/ obesity may really occur to those who suffers from low testosterone! Thank for this post by the way!

    December 5, 2012 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. joankirk999

    Thanks for sharing useful information about low testosterone level.
    http://menehancement.blogspot.in/2013/01/low-testosterone-low-t-basics.html

    February 14, 2013 at 04:01 | Report abuse | Reply

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