Testosterone is for men, and estrogen is for women, right? For the most part yes, but there is estrogen found in all men, and women do need small amounts of testosterone. There is, however, a growing need to understand the effects of estrogen in men. Like all hormones, estrogen needs to be kept in balance in both men and women. Chronic health conditions are more likely to occur in men as a result of estrogen levels becoming too high.
Testosterone and estrogen are actually very closely related in the body. A look at their chemical structure reveals only subtle differences. Yet, the differences of the effects of these two hormones on the body are substantial. Testosterone affects nearly every cell in the male body. It improves muscle mass and bone density and will also have a positive affect on the heart, brain and blood vessels. Estrogen is actually made from the circulating testosterone in the body by an enzyme called aromatase. As men age, they tend to make increasing levels of estrogen with decreased production of testosterone. Estrogen can be made in the liver, muscle and brain, as well as the fat cells. This is actually where much of the concern lies. As obesity rates go up in this country and around the world, the production of estrogen will also increase from the fat cells. This is a bad combination of decreasing testosterone and increasing estrogen.
The benefits of testosterone for men are just beginning to be fully understood. We are learning that testosterone may help prevent heart and vascular disease in addition to its benefits with mood, muscles and aiding blood sugar levels. Diabetics tend to have higher rates of estrogen, which may correlate to a degree with their higher blood sugar levels [Source: Small]. Lower testosterone has also correlated higher rates of depression [Source: Eskelinen, Martinez-Jabaloyas]. Too much estrogen may correlate with diabetes and heart attacks [Source: Sewdarsen]. Prostate cancer continues to be one of the most frequently diagnosed and one of the most common causes of death in men. Evidence is now pointing to estrogens playing a significant role in the etiology of prostate cancer [Source: Carruba, Stone]. For years, testosterone has been blamed as the cause of prostate cancer, but a shift in thinking is pointing to an imbalance of the estrogens in the body being very important in preventing or causing prostate cancer. For men, too little testosterone and too much estrogen may play a role in nearly all chronic disease.