Negative Impact of Testosterone Deficiency and 5α-Reductase Inhibitors Therapy on Metabolic and Sexual Function in Men

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017:1043:473-526. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-70178-3_22.


Androgens are steroid hormones with pleotropic and diverse biochemical and physiological functions, and androgen deficiency exerts a negative impact on human health. Testosterone (T) either directly or via its transformation into the more potent metabolite 5α-dihydrotestosterone (5α-DHT) or via aromatization into estradiol (E2) modulates important biochemical signaling pathways of human physiology and plays a critical role in the growth and/or maintenance of functions in a host of tissues and organs. T and 5α-DHT play an important role in regulating physiology of the muscle, adipose tissue, liver, bone, and central nervous system, as well as reproductive and sexual functions. Thus, androgen deficiency (also referred to as hypogonadism) is a well-recognized medical condition and if remained untreated will have a negative impact on human health and quality of life.In this chapter, we have summarized the negative impact of T deficiency (TD) on a host of physiological functions including reduced lean body mass (LBM), increased fat mass (FM), increased insulin resistance (IR), metabolic syndrome (MetS) and adiposity, reduced bone mineral density (BMD), anemia, sexual dysfunction, and reduced quality of life and increased mortality. In addition, we discuss another critical aspect of unrecognized form of androgen deficiency resulting from inhibition of 5α-reductases with drugs, such as finasteride and dutasteride, to block transformation of T into 5α-DHT in the course of treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and male pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia (AGA). The negative impact of drugs that inhibit transformation of T to 5α-DHT by 5α-reductases on metabolic function is manifested in fat accumulation in the liver, which may predispose to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Also, inhibition of 5α-DHT formation increases glucose synthesis and reduces glucose disposal potentially contributing to hyperglycemia, IR, and elevated activities of liver function enzymes concomitant with reduction in circulating T levels, worsening erectile dysfunction (ED), and reduced quality of life.Although we have attempted to summarize the current literature pertaining to this critical topic "androgen deficiency" and its impact on men's health and quality of life, there remain many gaps in the knowledge regarding the biochemical pathways that are involved in the pathophysiology of androgen deficiency. We wish to clearly state that there are areas of controversies, including whether age-related androgen deficiency (functional hypogonadism) merits treatment and whether T therapy provided real proven benefits. Finally, considerable debate exists with respect to the potential and purported cardiovascular (CV) risks of treating TD with exogenous T. For brevity sake, we will not discuss in detail the benefits of T therapy in men with TD since this topic is comprehensively covered by Dr. F. Saad's chapter in this book, entitled "Testosterone Therapy and Glucose Homeostasis in Men with Testosterone Deficiency (Hypogonadism)."We have made a concerted effort to address the controversy of T therapy in men with TD in the discussion. However, we wish to acknowledge that these issues will remain a matter of debate for some time to come. Only with advances in fundamental basic science and clinical research, some of these controversial issues may be laid to rest. Nevertheless, we believe that there is considerable body of credible evidence to suggest that T therapy of men with TD is safe and effective and provides a host of health benefits and therefore merits considerations in men with TD, irrespective of the underlying cause or etiology. An additional aspect of androgen deficiency is the drug-induced reduction in 5α-DHT levels by the use of 5α-reductase inhibitors. We also believe that physicians prescribing 5α-reductase inhibitors (i.e., finasteride or dutasteride) for relief of BPH symptoms or treatment of hair loss should engage their patients in a productive discussion regarding the potential adverse side effects of these medications on their overall health and quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 5-alpha Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Health Status
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hypogonadism / blood*
  • Hypogonadism / chemically induced
  • Hypogonadism / drug therapy
  • Hypogonadism / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / drug effects*
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / chemically induced
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / physiopathology
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / psychology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / chemically induced
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / psychology
  • Testosterone / adverse effects
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Testosterone / deficiency*


  • 5-alpha Reductase Inhibitors
  • Testosterone