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Testosterone Decline in Men Linked to Lifestyle, Increases in Obese Girls

r normal weight counterparts, obese girls have significantly higher levels of testosterone before and during puberty (i.e., the peripubertal phase). Researchers have found that mean concentrations of free serum testosterone in obese peripubertal girls were two-to-nine times higher than in normal weight peripubertal girls. This difference appeared to be especially prominent during the earlier pubertal stages. In addition to elevated testosterone concentrations, obese girls also had insulin concentrations that were up to three times higher than for normal weight girls. Increased insulin levels suggest insulin resistance, which also raises the specter of an increased risk of developing diabetes later in life.

For this study, researchers examined 30 normal weight girls and 74 obese girls, as measured by Body Mass Index (BMI) standardized for age, in various stages of puberty. The girls’ pubertal stage was categorized by Tanner breast staging, which is the standard physical exam measure used by pediatricians.

The early stages of puberty (Tanner 1-3) are particularly critical times in a girl’s development. “Since this is when the complex interactions governing the menstrual cycle are being established, excess testosterone during this time could impact the future reproductive health of women,” said Dr. Christopher R. McCartney, lead author of the study. “Though, the long-term implications of elevated testosterone during puberty have yet to be established.” McCartney also noted that high testosterone levels can promote excessive hair growth, though it could take a few years for these symptoms to materialize in subjects.

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