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October 24, 2012

Testosterone: To Tell The Powerful Truth

testosterone and truthHonest T: Does Testosterone Lead to More Truthfulness?

Have you wondered why you can trust very little coming out of Washington, DC?  I think I have an explanation. Perhaps there is a deficiency of testosterone in our nation’s Capitol. In this study out of Germany testosterone was shown to increase honesty among men. Honesty – something we don’t see much from our politicians.

The Biology of Lying

The study makes the point that we understand very little about the biology behind being dishonest or lying, and this study was an attempt to shed some light on the topic. It has been known that testosterone (androgen)affects brain development and social behavior, and other recent studies suggest that testosterone may increase pro-social behavior.

The Germany study involved having men self-report the outcome of rolling dice. The study was designed so that there would be no way the participants could be caught lying. The men were compensated based on the outcome of rolling dice. The higher the number, the more they were paid. So there was an incentive for them to lie (self-serving lie).

Half the men received testosterone or androgen replacement before rolling the dice and half received a placebo. T levels were also measured. As might be expected the men who received testosterone had higher androgen levels. They were also more likely to report lower scores from rolling the dice.

The study’s researchers speculated the androgen replacement may have an inhibitory effect on the part of the brain (orbitofrontal cortex) felt to play a role in lying. In other words, testosterone puts the brake on the orbitofrontal cortex deactivating it.

The study has some limitations. One, the study is based on a one time administration of testosterone. Secondly, it is possible that the vast majority of the men were honest in both the testosterone group and the placebo group with their self-reporting. The study was intentionally designed so that there was no way to catch the dishonest. Thus the findings of the study, though unlikely, may be a statistical fluke.

Testosterone and Rich Men

Several years ago I heard a successful businessman say that he felt having money made a man “more of what he already is”. Therefore, a man who is naturally kind and generous will become more kind and generous the more money he accumulates. And, someone who is selfish and arrogant will become more selfish and arrogant the more money he has.

My observation in treating men for low androgen levels is similar to the businessman’s observation. I think optimizing a man’s testosterone levels better reveals the true nature of that individual. And, I think the nature of most of us is to be honest. So for me the study’s findings are not surprising.

Testosterone and Washington, DC

What follows is meant to be half humorous and half serious. Perhaps male politicians should be required to report their testosterone levels, thus giving voters another vital piece of information to help cast their votes.

Low androgen level is associated with grumpy old cantankerous men and we seem to have too many of them in Washington, DC.  Plus, higher levels of testosterone are associated with better brain function, and there seems to be a shortage of brain function on both sides of the aisle currently in our nation’s Capitol.

I suspect Honest Abe had healthy testosterone levels.

Here’s what I have in mind. Right there on the ballot next to their name and party affiliation should be a number – the candidate’s testosterone level. Something like this:

  • Joe Jacko                   Independent       1000
  • Joe Conservative     Republican           400
  • Joe Progressive       Democrat              400

Who would you vote for?

Testosterone: The Best Way to Fix Washington, DC .  That should be a bumper sticker.

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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