Men typically have to take a lab test to check for testosterone levels, but a new study suggests that childhood environments might be a better indication.
What Did Researchers Discover About Testosterone?
Researchers found that men's testosterone levels depend largely on where they live, and geographic settings can alter testosterone levels in childhood. When men reach adulthood, ecology no longer plays a role.
The findings were published on June 25 in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
The study found that young boys living in a more challenging environment filled with dangerous diseases could result in having lower testosterone levels in adulthood. Likewise, boys who grew up in healthier and privileged homes tend to have higher testosterone levels later in life. This debunks the old notion that testosterone levels were more likely to be decided by hereditary influences.
Energy played a big role in testosterone levels. Essentially, boys who grow up in environments with more diseases are required to use more energy to survive. Boys with fewer challenges use less energy and end up with higher testosterone levels.
"Once a male 'commits' a proportion of his investment to reproduction it determines his regular levels of testosterone for the rest of his adult life," lead author Dr. Kesson Magid told Inverse.
How Did Researchers Link Childhood Experiences To Levels Of Testosterone?
Researchers studied data from 359 men. In the study, 107 men were born and raised in Bangladesh, 59 were born in Bangladesh but moved to the United Kingdom as a child, and 56 men were born in the United Kingdom and had Bangladeshi parents. Native Europeans were also included in the study.
After looking at height, weight, the age of puberty, and other health figures, the researchers found that men who grew up in the United Kingdom had higher levels of testosterone than those people who grew up in Bangladesh. The men in the United Kingdom were also taller and reached puberty at a younger age. The researchers say that this proves that the environment — and not ethnicity — played a bigger role in testosterone levels as an adult.
Future Implications Of This Testosterone Study
Higher testosterone levels have previously been linked to the risk of prostate cancer and other implications. Additionally, low testosterone levels have been linked to other health problems such as a low libido. These findings suggest that screenings for prostate cancer and libido should take into account childhood surroundings.
"It could be important to know more about men's childhood circumstances to build a fuller picture of their risk factors for certain conditions or diseases," coauthor Professor Gillian Bentley said.