If You Suffer From Low-T, You’re More at Risk for Severe COVID-19 Symptoms

Written by Dr. Jonathan Peterson, Updated on April 23rd, 2024, Published on May 30th, 2021

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Yes, COVID is still an issue in May of 2021 – especially if you are a male with low testosterone.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the lives of nearly everyone on the planet (except, perhaps, the off-grid folks or hermits of the woods), and recent studies are telling us that men with low testosterone levels are more at risk for developing severe COVID-19 symptoms and/or complications.

Unfortunately, this news shows a trend of decreasing testosterone levels in men – and not just in older men, but men in their 20s and 30s, too (That is a topic for another article, however).

Low-T Linked to Increased Risk of Severe COVID-19 in Men

A recent study published in the journal JAMA Network Open found that low testosterone levels in men are linked to severe COVID risk in men, but it was not proven that low testosterone is the cause of severe COVID-19. The researchers concluded that low testosterone levels could help us in the way of a biomarker of other causal factors.

Typically, when testosterone levels are low in men, estrogen levels are higher. This leads to adverse effects in men, including weight gain, muscle loss, and depression, just to name a few.

Estrogen is the “female hormone” that is mainly responsible for developing and regulating the female reproductive system, such as menstruation and pregnancy.

The researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine advise that caution should be taken in the ongoing clinical trials looking at hormone therapies for treating men with COVID-19, including the blockage or lowering of testosterone and/or increasing estrogen.

Higher Levels of Testosterone a Good Thing When Battling COVID

Professor of Medicine and study author Abhinav Diwan stated, “During the pandemic, there has been a prevailing notion that testosterone is bad. But we found the opposite in men...If a man had low testosterone when he first came to the hospital, his risk of severe COVID-19 was much higher than men with more circulating testosterone.”

If a man’s testosterone drops even lower while in the hospital fighting the coronavirus, the risk of severe symptoms increases. During the course of the study, the researchers recorded data on several hormones taken from 90 men and 62 women demonstrating symptoms of COVID-19 with a confirmation of diagnosis.

Blood samples for the hormones were taken upon initial intake at the hospital and on days 3, 7, 14, and 28 if the patient stayed that long in the hospital. Besides testosterone, the researchers also measured estradiol and IGF-1.

Estradiol is a form of estrogen naturally produced by the body, and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is a hormone similar to insulin. It helps us to maintain muscle mass.

Low Testosterone Has No Effect on Women With COVID-19

The women in the study had no correlation between levels of any of the hormones tested and the severity of the coronavirus. With the men, only testosterone was linked to infection severity.

In the medical world, 250 nanograms(ng) per deciliter (dL) of testosterone is considered “low” testosterone in adult men. When men were admitted to the hospital with severe symptoms, the average testosterone levels were around 53 ng/dL. The men with less severe symptoms had average of 151 ng/dL levels.

The Lower the Testosterone Levels, the Worse the Disease

At day three, the average testosterone level of the severely ill men was just 19 ng/dL. The lower the testosterone, the worse the disease. What this means in terms of medical care was that the “low testosterone” men were at the highest risk of needing a ventilator, intensive care, or death. In fact, thirty-seven patients (out of which 25 were men) died from the illness over the course of the study, unfortunately.

In addition, other factors that are known to increase the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, such as increased age, diabetes, and obesity, are also linked to low testosterone.

Study author Sandeep Dhindsa, endocrinologist, stated, “The groups of men who were getting sicker were known to have lower testosterone across the board.”

Dhindsa also said, “We also found that those men with COVID-19 who were not severely ill initially, but had low testosterone levels, were likely to need intensive care or intubation over the next two or three days.”

He believes that low testosterone levels demonstrate a predictive aspect in which patients will likely become severely ill in the next couple of days after hospital admission.


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