4 things that lower your testosterone

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on January 25th, 2018
Reading Time: 3 minutes

OMG honey, Im just so exhausted from all this spermatogenesis. I cant possibly change that diaper.

This is the take-home message of a new research finding, summarized here at Salon with the headline, You may be a terrible dad because you have enormous testicles. The study found that the testosterone levels of fathers, along with the size of their testicles, correlates with brain scans measuring positive responses to their children and caretaking activity at home. The scholars hypothesize a reproductive strategy trade-off: some men try to maximize the chances of passing on their genes by having lots of babies (hence those large testicles and, presumably, large loads) or having just a few children but investing in their long-term survival (hence the part where they actively love and care for their kids).

By and large, both the scholars and the media seemed to assume that the data meant that some men were biologically prone to being good dads and others werent. Dr James Rilling, one of the authors of the study, said that the research tells us some men are more naturally inclined to care-giving and concludes that, It just might require more effort for some than others. They frame their research, in other words, with the question, Why do some men choose not to invest in their children? Their tentative conclusion is that men are driven to make that choice by high levels of testosterone.

But is the only way to interpret the data? Not at all. Some really interesting and sometimes pretty funny research suggests the opposite might be true.

Haunting the story is a stubborn biological determinism that goes something like this: if we identify a biological trait that correlates with a social one, the former must be causing the latter. It is as if we believe that biological traits are all immutable: impervious to and unrelenting in the face of environmental influences. Accordingly, whatever we observe in society must be the product of biology and not the other way around.

Wait, the other way around? This is the idea that sociocultural forces actually change our biology. In this case, the interpretation would go something like this: in families in which men actively parent their children, an evolutionarily adaptive strategy of investment in existing offspring would kick in; in contrast, in families in which men were absent or only marginally involved, an alternative evolutionary strategy of disinvestment and spreading ones seed would manifest. In this scenario, men have two strategies for maximizing their reproductive success, but the strategy they end up using isnt determinedby biology. Instead, mens bodies respond to their social environments, allowing any given man to adapt to either involved or uninvolved fatherhood. Moreover, it would enable him to alter his reproductive strategy (and the size of his testicles) over the course of his life as he encountered different opportunities.

Men, then, would be evolutionarily prepared to take advantage of whatever reproductive opportunities were available. Now that sounds like a great way to maximize success. Is there any evidence, though, for this type of phenomenon? Yes, lots.

First, we know that mens hormones respond to experiences. Want to raise a mans testosterone level? Let him drive a Porsche. Want to raise it higher? Let him drive it in front of other people. Even higher? Let him drive it in front of a small collection of supermodels. I confess, the last is just speculation. The first two experiments, though, are real. When we enable men to perform an activity that weve collectively agreed enhances mens status, their hormones respond. Interestingly, if they dont care about sports cars, theres no effect. They have to buy the hype.

Testosterone also responds to metaphorical kicks in the balls. If a person experiences a sudden drop in status, like the kind that happens when one enters boot camp, levels drop.

Likewise, even though testosterone is somewhat related to aggression, measuring mens levels before a physical contest wont predict the winner. You can tell who lost, however, after the game. The losers levels of testosterone will go down, the winners will go up. Men, then, are biologically programmed to respond to failure and success.

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4 things that lower your testosterone

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