By Dr. Victor S. Sierpina
Men, there is now a simple medical biomarker at-home test for you called CYCYP.
Look straight down and see if you can see your … mmm, anatomy. If not, likely you are suffering from visceral or belly fat, or maybe you have a vision problem.
For many years, we guys have thought of the obesity issue as something that mainly troubled the fairer sex.
It seems it has always been culturally appropriate for the ladies to be concerned about their shapely figures and how to stay attractive for us guys.
We men rarely, if ever, seem to be concerned or even discuss such matters outside of the gym.
However, the surprising news is that obesity or overweight rates for men are at 72 percent and rising, and for women it is 64 percent and stable.
Men also have a higher risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease with a life expectancy of 76 years compared to 81 for women.
Obesity or overweight contribute to the burden of all these diseases in a major way. Lifestyle management is the primary therapeutic tool.
My colleague and friend, physician and chef Dr. John La Puma, has new book out called “Men Don’t Diet, Men ... Refuel.” John has long explored the ways health and nutrition are related.
A major theme of this book is that the overweight/obesity epidemic among men is in part attributable to declining testosterone levels.
This decrease is not just the kind related to normal aging. There has been a worldwide decline in testosterone levels among men of all ages.
One study indicated that there is a global “sperm crisis” with a decrease in sperm counts of 50 percent in the last 50 years.
A French study that showed a 33 percent decline in sperm counts among French men from 1989-2005.
I confirmed these facts with Dr. Randy Urban, UTMB’s Chair of Internal Medicine, an endocrinology specialist who has done extensive research on testosterone.
Both Drs. Urban and La Puma are concerned that this decline in testosterone, commonly nicknamed “T,” is a real thing and a significant health hazard.
It is likely is because of a number factors.
Weight gain and associated insulin resistance in itself contributes to hormonal changes, lowered testosterone, along with increased risks of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Visceral or belly fat is a factory of inflammatory chemicals and a cause of conversion of testosterone into estrogen, its female equivalent.
Or as La Puma asks, “Is your belly turning you into a girl?”
Also contributing to this problem are a broad array of environmental toxins, plasticizers, pesticide residues and drug metabolites that convert T into estrogen.
Many of these everyday chemicals are used in plastics, papers and beverage containers.
So what is a man to do if you failed the CYCYP test?
The replacement of testosterone has become increasingly popular, though it has a number of risks.
Talk to your doctor about this option and get tested if it is appropriate. A T level under 300 is generally considered low, and the man below this level may be a potential candidate for replacement therapy.
Alternatively, La Puma emphasizes a number of lifestyle changes. As a culinary and wine expert, he cheerfully offers recipes that hit the “reward” circuit in men’s brains. Some tips are:
1. Avoid plastics. Don’t microwave plastic food containers, try to avoid plastic food containers and bottles, or get phthalate-free and BPA-free containers.
2. Eat more crucifers. These vegetables help detoxify the body through improved liver activity and removal of estrogen. Crucifers include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens and kale.
3. Eat more monounsaturated fats, as these help build T levels. These fats are from avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts and nut oils.
4. Cut carbs almost completely a couple times a week, to under 50 grams. This can help reduce insulin sensitivity, improve weight loss and reset your body’s hormonal system to resemble that of our cave men ancestors.
5. Use the 6-inch plate and the www.myplate.gov for a guide to portion size.
6. Squats, push-ups and jumping jacks accelerate burning visceral fat more than running.
So if you are an overweight or obese guy, you might get a copy of LaPuma’s book and try out some of the methods and recipes there. Your health and your family will thank you for it.
And ladies, if he isn’t interested, get him a copy anyway and prepare some new and healthy dishes for him. You will be increasing “T for two.”
Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.