Testosterone and cholesterol

Cholesterol, carried in the blood in lipoproteins, is made by the body or digested from our food. It is used for many essential processes in our bodies such as the production of hormones and the maintenance of cells. There are different forms of cholesterol, the carriers for which may be classified into high density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). There is evidence that LDL is connected with clogging of arteries called atherosclerosis. Not surprisingly this is dangerous and can lead to heart attacks if the artery becomes blocked. Measuring LDL, and taking corrective action, is a good idea especially for people who have had a heart attack already. However it has been pointed out that most people who have a heart attack have a non-risk level of cholesterol.

Unfortunately the usual test used by the NHS only gives total cholesterol, but it is used to justify mass medication with statins for people with a reading higher than 5. However the LDL is rarely quoted and ideally should be no more than 2.6.

Statins are increasingly controversial. A proportion of people using them suffer muscle pain and wastage and some find a loss of libido. The extent is uncertain. Some put it as high as 10% whilst a recent Lancet article suggested a much lower figure. However the methods used and the pharmaceutical company funding that created the Lancet data have been criticised by some.

Currently the link between cholesterol and testosterone is being investigated. It seems that many people suffer low testosterone. This might lead to muscle weakness, low mood, loss of libido and impotence. Testosterone is increasingly being prescribed to both men and women to counter these maladies.

Three questions strike me.

First, if statins reduce total cholesterol, could they be causing some of these drops in testosterone?

Secondly, if testosterone is prescribed will this cause an increase in cholesterol?

Thirdly, could the drop in testosterone caused by statins be the cause of the problems with some peoples’ muscles?



(C) Peter Scott 2016

Last edit 23 March 2017