More COVID-19 deaths have occurred in men than women leading to speculation that testosterone, the male hormone, may be the culprit. But, as more data comes out it appears that men who have died from COVID-19 have had low levels of testosterone compared to men with more normal levels of testosterone. So it may be more the level of testosterone rather than the presence of testosterone.
Is Low Testosterone Linked to COVID-19 Deaths?
This is something we have seen time and again with other disease (heart disease, strokes, diabetes) states where there is a gender difference in rates and deaths of disease where testosterone is “blamed” as causing an increased risk when in reality the real culprit is a testosterone level that is too low.
In some studies out of Europe up to 63% of the COVID-19 deaths have been in males. So it is natural to look at differences between men and women and the one thing that typically separates men from women is men have higher testosterone levels than women.
In a German study already linked to above, 68.6% of the men seen in the ICU for COVID-19 had low levels of testosterone whereas 60% of the women had elevated levels of testosterone (for women). More COVID-19 deaths occurred in men with low testosterone.
Patients dying from COVID-19 develop a cytokine storm which results from an immune system out of control. The result is this cytokine storm damages the body if unchecked.
If testosterone itself is the problem then we should see higher death rates in younger males who have higher levels of testosterone. And, that is something that is not being seen.
Testosterone and Immune System
Testosterone is known to help regulate the body’s immune system response and it is theorized that in the case of COVID-19 that low levels of testosterone allow the immune system to go haywire and unchecked essentially leading to further damage of the lungs and other vital organs.
This was a small study involving 45 patients and certainly not the end all and be all on the link between testosterone and COVID-19 deaths. But, the findings are consistent with what we see in other disease states where the real issue is a testosterone level that is too low rather than the mere presence of testosterone.
Once again, optimal testosterone levels appear to have more benefits.