A recent study suggests that men with low testosterone have a much higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
Although known as the male sex hormone, women also have small amounts of testosterone. Its effects are more evident in men, who have much higher levels.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many severe COVID cases were occurring in men. A variety of factors were suggested, including lifestyle and adherence to COVID-19 risk reduction protocols like social distancing and mask-wearing.
Now, Italian researchers suggest testosterone levels may play a role, as well.
The study looked at close to 300 symptomatic make COVID-19 patients who arrived at a hospital in Milan during the pandemic’s first wave.
Researchers found that the lower the patient’s testosterone levels were, the more likely they were to need intensive care, or be intubated on a ventilator, and have a longer hospital stay.
Many of the men with severe infection had very low levels of testosterone and there was a clear correlation between testosterone levels and disease severity and the likelihood of death.
The correlation led study author Andrea Salonia to say “I’ve never seen anything like it in my 25 years in the field.”
Even after accounting for age, pre-existing health conditions, and weight, there were still major differences in outcome based on testosterone levels.
There is one potential issue with the study, and that is that they did not have patients’ testosterone levels prior to hospital admission. Therefore they cannot say for sure that COVID causes the lower observed testosterone levels.
In any event, it seems like higher testosterone may play a role in a man’s ability to ward off a severe COVID-19 infection. Finding ways to boost testosterone, like physical activity, strength training, and a healthful diet, may help with immune strength.