Hormones: top five facts

Hormones: they swing our moods, make us grow, get us ready for a fight – or a hot date. Testosterone bulks guys’ muscles and primes them for a punch-up. Estrogen keeps girls’ periods ticking over. Read more in our 20th Top Five Facts.
  1. What they do
    Testosterone is known as the male sex hormone, estrogen (also spelled oestrogen) is its female counterpart. But both sexes have both hormones! Testosterone promotes hair, bone and muscle growth and spikes your sex drive. Estrogen also promotes desire but influences plenty of other bodily functions too, like mental well-being and wound healing.

    For a long time, scientists thought that sex, masturbation and watching porn would cause lower sex hormone levels in general. That's not true! While there may be brief drops, getting a workout between the sheets will not affect your hormonal levels in the long run. What do affect them though are illnesses like obesity, hypertension and diabetes!
  2. What they don't do
    Scientists used to think that testosterone levels dropped with age, so they also thought that prescribing hormone supplements could counter failing sexual functions and the process of aging. Now, they know that this is wishful thinking. Less than three percent of all erectile dysfunction are caused by low testosterone levels. And 'treating' a guy with a hormone that increases his sexual desire but doesn't cure his erection problem borders on cruelty!

    Also, overdoses of testosterone can cause cardiovascular and prostate disease. Let's face it, wrinkles don't sound all that bad compared to that, do they?
  3. Love and hormones
    Falling in love and having babies change hormonal levels in both men and women! When women fall in love, their testosterone levels spike but they produce less estrogen. For men, it's the other way around. This is nature's way of reducing the differences between the sexes, making them more compatible, scientists believe. The hormone levels return to their normal state about one to three years into the sexual desire. That is if the relationship survives that long!

    When women give birth, their estrogen levels plummet. This can cause them to develop depressions that disappear only once the hormone level is restored. The dads on the other hand will have less testosterone than usual: that makes them more caring and loving towards the new-born baby.
  4. Can you smell this?
    It seems that men can subconsciously smell when a woman is ovulating. Guys testosterone levels increased by up to 37 percent when they smelled the shirts of ovulating women in a scientific study. 

    But we still don’t know if this increase is enough to change a man's behaviour towards the ovulating woman. Because the fact is also that women are more flirtatious at this time of month. So whether it's the women's increased estrogen levels or the male testosterone that's causing sparks to fly, we don't know. But it's definitely the time of month you'll be most successful while flirting!
  5. Obsolete testosterone?
    So, in the right doses, testosterone is a pretty cool hormone. It causes muscles to grow and works to promote your sexual desires. But the more you have, the less desirable the effects get. Higher levels, whether natural or artificial, increase risky or even violent behaviour. And not just in men!

    Testosterone - better off without it? What do you think? Leave a comment or join our discussion on Facebook!

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