Testosterone is a steroid hormone. It’s often referred to as the “male sex hormone” as men have significantly higher levels of testosterone than women.

Research has shown that diabetes and high blood sugar levels can affect testosterone levels in both men and women.

Most commonly, diabetes is associated with lower than normal testosterone levels in men but higher than normal testosterone levels in women.

Why is testosterone important?

According to the National Institute of Health, testosterone helps regulate how fat is deposited on the body, the development of muscle mass, bone density, metabolism, and maintaining libido (sex drive).

Testosterone in males is also important for the development of masculine features, male genitals, facial hair, and deepening of the voice.

In females, testosterone is associated with maintaining libido after menopause. Women with higher than normal levels of testosterone may experience irregular periods and increased body hair and muscle mass.

How high blood sugar levels decrease testosterone production

High blood sugar levels can affect practically every aspect of how well your body functions — including the production of testosterone.

When your blood sugar levels are consistently higher than normal, the pituitary gland that produces “luteinizing hormone” or “LH” struggles to produce normal amounts. This hormone is what stimulates the production of testosterone in your testicles. 

Without enough LH, you won’t produce enough testosterone.

Testosterone and insulin resistance

One of the clearest links between testosterone and diabetes (particularly type 2 diabetes) is the relationship between low testosterone and insulin resistance.

When your body isn’t responding normally to the insulin your pancreas produces, it’s referred to as “insulin resistance.” 

To maintain normal blood sugar levels, your pancreas will work harder to produce more insulin. Over time, it’s hard to keep up with the demand. And this then leads to gradually increasing blood sugar levels, too.

Bit by bit, your blood sugar levels are rising until you suddenly learn at your routine check-up that your HbA1c is high enough to qualify as “pre-diabetic” which can later turn into type 2 diabetes. 

You might also notice you’re also gaining fat more easily and lose muscle mass more easily which just adds further to insulin resistance. 

Muscle helps manage blood sugar levels and insulin resistance by burning more calories even when you’re resting. The less testosterone you produce, the more muscle you’ll lose and the more calories you’ll store as body fat, which then increases insulin resistance and blood sugar levels.

It’s a complicated system, and everything is affected! When your hormones are struggling, your blood sugar struggles. When your blood sugar struggles, your hormones struggle.

How blood sugar levels affect your sex drive

High blood sugar levels not only damage the blood vessels and nerve endings in your penis, but they also limit healthy blood flow. Without decent blood flow, maintain an erection is pretty much impossible and you can develop erectile dysfunction.

When your blood sugar level is high, nearly everything else in your body will struggle to function at full capacity. 

How low testosterone affect your sex drive

Your sex drive is affected by a lot of things, including stress, sleep quality, depression, and other lifestyle factors. It also typically decreases as you age.

It’s not completely clear to science how testosterone affects sex drive, but low testosterone is one of the possible causes of low libido. If testosterone is lowered far enough, virtually all men will experience some decline in sex drive.

What can you do right now to improve testosterone levels?

Improve your blood sugar. The healthier your blood sugar levels are, the healthier every part of your body will be — including your testosterone production! 

Get moving. Exercise of any kind not only improves your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, but it also encourages testosterone production, too. You don’t have to go to the gym to get a good workout. Even walking for 30 minutes a day is a very worthwhile goal if you’re currently not exercising at all. Just get moving.

Improve your diet. If you’re drinking a lot of sodas and eating a lot of highly processed, packaged foods, all of your body’s critical hormone levels are going to struggle. You don’t need to follow an extremely restrictive diet to improve how you eat. Get more vegetables and cook more real, whole food. Keep it simple while still making room for occasional treats so you can enjoy a healthier diet longterm.

Reduce your alcohol intake. Binge drinking, which is defined as the consumption of five drinks of alcohol within 2 hours in men or four drinks in women, once a month or more often has been directly linked to a significantly increased risk of insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels. By drinking less alcohol, you’ll increase your insulin sensitivity which can help increase testosterone production. 

Get more sleep. Not enough sleep can have a huge impact on both your testosterone production and your sensitivity to insulin, both of which lead to higher blood sugar levels. Consistently getting 5 hours of sleep instead of 8 hours, for example, lead to a 10 to 15 percent reduction in testosterone production, according to 2011 research.

Quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes has a direct impact on your sexual desire and how long it actually takes for you to become aroused. Every time you smoke a cigarette, your arteries become more narrow, restricting healthy blood flow! Also a contributing problem, every time nicotine is present in your body, you become more insulin resistant which increases blood sugar levels which further decreases your testosterone production! 

You don’t have to improve everything all at once. Pick one area to focus on and get started!