Sex hormones: Is too little testosterone really sad?
It has long been known that sex hormones have an important influence on reproduction and the feeling of pleasure. They also play an important role in human mood. Too little testosterone in men or too little estrogen in women can promote depression. Researchers from Austria have examined this connection in more detail.
Depression due to insufficient sex hormones
Sex hormones play a very important role in human mood. In men, too little testosterone and in women, too little estrogen can promote depression. Viennese researchers have now taken a closer look at this connection using transsexuals. Accordingly, the serotonin known as the "messenger of good fortune", which helps determine our emotional balance in the brain, is important for this connection. This hormone fulfills far more functions in the body. It affects, among other things, the sleep rhythm, the sensation of pain, our appetite and the body temperature.
Testosterone provides more "messengers of happiness"
A research team led by Rupert Lanzenberger from the Medical University of Vienna (MedUni Vienna) showed in a study that testosterone increases the number of serotonin transporters (SERT) in the human brain. These proteins are said to regulate the concentration of serotonin and are also the target for antidepressants. The scientists published the results of their investigations in the journal "http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25497691"> Biological Psychiatry ".
According to an older communication from "science.ORF.at", the researchers chose hormone therapy for transsexuals as a model for the study of testosterone effects. "Transsexuals are people who have the feeling that they live in the wrong body and therefore want a high-dose counter-sex hormone therapy in order to adapt their appearance to the opposite sex," said first author Georg Kranz very conservatively. "Genetic women receive testosterone, genetic men receive estradiol, and drugs to suppress testosterone."
Close relationship demonstrated
Using an imaging technique (PET), the scientists were able to demonstrate that the number of SERTS in “genetic women” who want to become men increases significantly after just four weeks of testosterone therapy. A close relationship between testosterone in the blood and serotonin transporter density was also demonstrated. For "genetic men" who want to become women, it was exactly the opposite, as "science.ORF.at" reported: For them, the SERTS decreased after estradiol therapy. Although the scientists did not directly measure the serotonin content in the study, the conclusion “more SERT, more serotonin and thus more feelings of happiness” is permissible, as Siegfried Kasper, head of the University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at MedUni Vienna, told “ science.ORF.at “explained.
„Essential insights into the effects of sex hormones "
It is therefore clear that “genetic men” who want to become women have a “biologically less favorable starting position”. “If you have depressive episodes as part of the transformation, you shouldn't be afraid to seek psychiatric help,” says Kaspar. It was crucial in the new study that it was shown for the first time in humans worldwide how SERTs and sex hormones are related. In practice, this could result in depressed men recommending testosterone as an "antidepressant". "The study has shown that testosterone increases the possible binding sites for commonly prescribed antidepressants in the brain, and thus provides essential insights into the effects of sex hormones on the human brain," said Kaspar.
Low testosterone levels lead to disease
Numerous scientists have already been interested in the male sex hormone. Testosterone has been studied in around 85,000 studies. For example, several studies have shown that low testosterone levels in old age can lead to various symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, depression and a decrease in bone density (osteoporosis). In addition, some medical professionals believe that testosterone therapy may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks or strokes. (ad)