Seasonal and circadian variation in salivary testosterone in rural Bolivian men

Am J Hum Biol. 2009 Nov-Dec;21(6):762-8. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.20927.


Testosterone (T) plays a key role in the increase and maintenance of muscle mass and bone density in adult men. Life history theory predicts that environmental stress may prompt a reallocation of such investments to those functions critical to survival. We tested this hypothesis in two studies of rural Bolivian adult men by comparing free T levels and circadian rhythms during late winter, which is especially severe, to those in less arduous seasons. For each pair of salivary T(AM)/T(PM) samples (collected in a approximately 12-h period), circadian rhythm was considered classic (C(CLASSIC)) if T(AM) > 110%T(PM), reverse (C(REVERSE)) if T(PM) > 110%T(AM), and flat (C(FLAT)) otherwise. We tested the hypotheses that mean T(AM) > mean T(PM) and that mean T(LW) < mean T(OTHER) (LW = late winter, OTHER = other seasons). In Study A, of 115 T(PM)-T(AM) pairs, 51% = C(CLASSIC), 39% = C(REVERSE), 10% = C(FLAT); in Study B, of 184 T(AM)-T(PM) pairs, 55% = C(CLASSIC), 33% = C(REVERSE), 12% = C(FLAT). Based on fitting linear mixed models, in both studies T(OTHER-AM) > T(OTHER-PM) (A: P = 0.035, B: P = 0.0005) and T(OTHER-AM) > T(LW-AM) (A: P = 0.054, B: P = 0.007); T(PM) did not vary seasonally, and T diurnality was not significant during late winter. T diurnality varied substantially between days within an individual, between individuals and between seasons, but neither T levels nor diurnality varied with age. These patterns may reflect the seasonally varying but unscheduled, life-long, strenuous physical labor that typifies many non-industrialized economies. These results also suggest that single morning samples may substantially underestimate peak circulating T for an individual and, most importantly, that exogenous signals may moderate diurnality and the trajectory of age-related change in the male gonadal axis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adult
  • Bolivia
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rural Population
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Seasons*
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Testosterone / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • Testosterone