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{"id":556401524809,"title":"Testicular Tanning: What the Medical Research Says","created_at":"2022-04-18T21:44:17-04:00","body_html":"\u003cscript type=\"application\/ld+json\"\u003e\/\/ \u003c![CDATA[\n{\n \"@context\": \"https:\/\/schema.org\",\n \"@type\": \"Article\",\n \"headline\": \"Testicular Tanning: What the Medical Research Says\",\n \"keywords\": \"testicular tanning\",\n \"description\": \"Our MD and research team analyze medical research to determine if red light therapy applied to the testicles can really promote testosterone production. We examine whether male testosterone is dropping on a population basis, and criticize mainstream press coverage of this topic.\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/blogs\/health\/testicular-tanning\",\n\"author\": {\n \"@type\": \"Person\",\n \"name\": \"Taylor Graber MD\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/taylor-graber\",\n \"sameAs\": \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/taylor-j-graber-md-81351642\/\",\n \"jobTitle\": \"Content Partner\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"medicine, health, anesthesiology, iv therapy, science, drugs, pharmaceutical, medical research, scientific research, medical journals, entrepreneurship, healthcare, orthopedic surgery, biomedical engineering\",\n \"alumniOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"EducationalOrganization\",\n \"name\": [\n \"University of California San Diego\",\n \"Arizona University\",\n \"University of Arizona College of Medicine\"\n ]\n },\n \"memberOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\"\n }\n},\n\"creator\": {\n \"@type\": \"Person\",\n \"name\": \"Taylor Graber MD\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/taylor-graber\",\n \"sameAs\": \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/taylor-j-graber-md-81351642\/\",\n \"jobTitle\": \"Content Partner\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"medicine, health, anesthesiology, iv therapy, science, drugs, pharmaceutical, medical research, scientific research, medical journals, entrepreneurship, healthcare, orthopedic surgery, biomedical engineering\",\n \"alumniOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"EducationalOrganization\",\n \"name\": [\n \"University of California San Diego\",\n \"Arizona University\",\n \"University of Arizona College of Medicine\"\n ]\n },\n \"memberOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\"\n }\n},\n\"contributor\": {\n \"@type\": \"Person\",\n \"name\": \"Calloway Cook\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/calloway-cook\",\n \"sameAs\": \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/calloway-cook\/\",\n \"jobTitle\": \"President\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"entrepreneurship, dietary supplements, herbal supplements, eCommerce, medical research\",\n \"alumniOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"EducationalOrganization\",\n \"name\": \"S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University\"\n },\n \"memberOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\"\n }\n},\n\"editor\": {\n \"@type\": \"Person\",\n \"name\": \"DJ Mazzoni\",\n \"honorificSuffix\": [\n \"M.S.\",\n \"R.D.\",\n \"C.D.N.\",\n \"C.S.C.S.\"\n ],\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/dj-mazzoni\",\n \"sameAs\": \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/dj-mazzoni-rd-cdn-cscs-00a33038\/\",\n \"jobTitle\": \"Medical Reviewer\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"exercise, drugs, pharmaceutical, health, workout, strength and conditioning, nutrition, dietetics, medicine, medical research, scientific research, scientific method, healthcare, patient care, wellness\",\n \"alumniOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"EducationalOrganization\",\n \"name\": [\n \"State University of New York College Oswego\",\n \"D’Youville College\"\n ]\n },\n \"memberOf\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\"\n }\n},\n\"image\": {\n\"@type\": \"ImageObject\",\n\"url\": \"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0047\/1524\/9737\/files\/Testicular_Tanning_Thumbnail.png?v=1650333189\",\n\"width\": \"2899\",\n\"height\": \"2899\"\n},\n\"citation\": [\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/17062768\/\", \n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/32081788\/\",\n\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC7063751\/\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/31996892\/\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/11099646\/\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/33332232\/\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/26914685\/\",\n\"https:\/\/www.insidehook.com\/daily_brief\/health-and-fitness\/testicle-tanning-testosterone-tucker-carlson\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/34913330\/\",\n\"https:\/\/www.theguardian.com\/world\/2022\/apr\/18\/tucker-carlson-masculinity-crisis-testicle-tanning\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/20923289\/\",\n\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/30427999\/\"\n],\n\"mentions\": [{\n \"@type\": \"Thing\",\n \"name\": \"Tucker Carlson\"\n },\n {\n \"@type\": \"Thing\",\n \"name\": \"microplastics\"\n },\n {\n \"@type\": \"Thing\",\n \"name\": \"red light therapy\"\n},\n {\n \"@type\": \"Thing\",\n \"name\": \"InsideHook\"\n},\n {\n \"@type\": \"Thing\",\n \"name\": \"The Guardian\"\n}\n],\n\"datePublished\": \"2022-04-18\",\n\"copyrightHolder\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\"\n},\n\"publisher\": {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Illuminate Labs\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/\",\n \"description\": \"Illuminate Labs is the most transparent supplement company in the U.S., and is a leading publisher of research-based health information.\",\n \"knowsAbout\": \"supplements, science, nutrition, exercise, health, medication, pharmaceutical, wellness, diet, weight loss, medical research\",\n \"publishingPrinciples\": \"https:\/\/illuminatelabs.org\/pages\/editorial-guidelines\",\n \"memberOf\": [\n {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"U.S. Chamber of Commerce\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/www.uschamber.com\/\"\n },\n {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Certified B Corp\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/www.bcorporation.net\/en-us\/\"\n },\n {\n \"@type\": \"Organization\",\n \"name\": \"Natural Products Association\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/www.npanational.org\/\"\n }\n ], \n \"logo\": {\n \"@type\": \"ImageObject\",\n \"url\": \"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0047\/1524\/9737\/files\/Illuminate_Labs_Logo.png?v=1641249064\", \n \"width\": 150,\n \"height\": 150\n},\n \"foundingDate\": \"2019-01-30\",\n \"Address\": {\n \"@type\": \"PostalAddress\",\n \"streetAddress\": \"50 Union Street, Unit 9\",\n \"addressLocality\": \"Northampton\",\n \"addressRegion\": \"Massachusetts\",\n \"postalCode\": \"01060\",\n \"addressCountry\": \"US\"\n},\n \"sameAs\": [\n \"https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/illuminatelabs\",\n \"https:\/\/twitter.com\/illuminatelabs\",\n \"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/company\/illuminate-labs-supplements\",\n \"https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/channel\/UCpgSJAsIPb-fZ25djtTxBEA\"\n ]\n }\n}\n\/\/ ]]\u003e\u003c\/script\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003ci\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e\u003cimg src=\"https:\/\/cdn.shopify.com\/s\/files\/1\/0047\/1524\/9737\/files\/Testicular_Tanning_Review_Article_Header_Image_Optimized.png?v=1650333156\" alt=\"\"\u003e\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/i\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003ci\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eDisclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s), and is presented for informational purposes only. We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to medical devices.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/i\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e\u003cspan class=\"dc\"\u003eT\u003c\/span\u003ehere's been a ton of controversy recently about a term coined by Tucker Carlson called “testicular tanning.” He’s referring to the use of red light therapy applied to the testicles to stimulate testosterone. Carlson claims that this is a miracle cure for male testosterone, while mainstream media outlets are nearly unified in claiming that this is unscientific.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eIn this article we’ll analyze what the research actually says about whether red light therapy can promote testosterone production, and whether it even matters.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eIs Male Testosterone Dropping?\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eMale testosterone is dropping precipitously in industrialized societies. A \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/17062768\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003emedical review\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology \u0026amp; Metabolism in 2007 analyzed serum testosterone levels across nearly two decades of data collection.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe researchers found that there was an “age-independent decline” in testosterone that remained even when factors known to lower testosterone like obesity were adjusted for. This suggests that there are environmental factors causing the decline.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eA \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/32081788\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003emore recent study\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e, published in 2021, found that adolescent and young adult men in the US experienced a statistically significant decrease in testosterone between the years 2000 and 2016.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eIn less than two decades, the study authors noted that the average testosterone level in the young adults tested dropped from around 600 nanograms per deciliter (ng\/dl) to around 450 ng\/dl. This is a drop of around 25% which is significant.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThis trend isn’t unique to American men. An \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/pmc\/articles\/PMC7063751\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eextremely thorough medical study\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e published in 2020 in the Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology Journal examined data from over 100,000 patients in Israel. The researchers found a “highly significant age-independent decline in total testosterone” over the 13 years of the study.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe’ve noted similar results in many other population studies we’ve reviewed from other industrialized nations. Thus we can conclude that male testosterone levels do appear to be dropping across the industrialized world.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eWhy Is Male Testosterone Dropping?\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThere are many theories as to why male testosterone is declining so significantly. The answer is likely multifactorial, but one of the theories backed by scientific research is the influence of hormone-disrupting chemicals in our environment.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eMicroplastics and plasticizing chemicals are a byproduct of industrialization, and are documented in \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/31996892\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003ehuman\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e and \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/11099646\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eanimal\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e studies to negatively affect testosterone in males.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe class of chemicals that make plastics soft, called “plasticizers,” disrupt endocrine function and appear to bio-accumulate in the tissue of mammals.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eResearchers are still yet to uncover the exact biochemical mechanisms that cause this class of chemicals to interfere with male hormone metabolism, but the fact that the trend of lowered testosterone remains constant even when adjusting for factors like obesity and exercise suggests that most of the cause is environmental.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eDoes Testicular Tanning Increase Testosterone?\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThere isn’t much medical research suggesting that red light therapy applied to the testicles (or to the body generally) improves testosterone levels.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eOne \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/33332232\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eclinical trial\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e examined the effects of full-body red light therapy treatment on a variety of health parameters in healthy young athletes, including heart rate variability, cortisol levels, and testosterone. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThe researchers found that the treatment had no effect on testosterone levels, though it should be noted that the participants were young (aged 18) male professional athletes, which is a group less likely to have issues with testosterone metabolism than the average patient.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eAn \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/26914685\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eanimal study\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e found that red light therapy increased sperm damage and had no impact on testosterone levels in rams. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe can’t locate any medical studies that suggest red light therapy is effective for improving testosterone levels, so we will conclude that “testicular tanning” is ineffective for boosting T at this point in time.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eUnscientific Mainstream Press Coverage of This Topic\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe’ve been disappointed by the coverage of this topic in mainstream media. Rather than analyzing the health claim based on medical data to provide consumers with valuable information, most of the coverage has been emotionally-driven rhetoric without a shred of evidence.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eAn \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/www.insidehook.com\/daily_brief\/health-and-fitness\/testicle-tanning-testosterone-tucker-carlson\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eInsideHook article\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e written by a man named Kirk Hook on the topic of testicular tanning stated the following “‘Red light therapy’ doesn’t appear to be a thing anyone is talking about professionally or medically, basically because the idea makes no sense.”\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eKirk Hook has no medical credentials and this conclusion is totally unscientific and false. Red light therapy (medically termed “low level light therapy”) returns 6,950 results in \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003ePubMed\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e, the leading resource for medical studies. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWhile it may not be effective for improving testosterone, it has promising early results for other health outcomes. As one randomly selected example, a \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/34913330\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003emeta-study\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e published in 2021 found that red light therapy is effective in early research as a side-effect-free treatment for fibromyalgia pain. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/www.theguardian.com\/world\/2022\/apr\/18\/tucker-carlson-masculinity-crisis-testicle-tanning\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eA piece\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e on The Guardian about this topic claims that “most men have far more testosterone than they need,” suggesting that the population-level decline in testosterone has no negative effects on male health. The author is named Sam Wolfson and he describes himself as a “freelance music writer” on his author bio. He has no apparent medical credentials and it’s concerning that a major publisher is allowing him to give medical advice to the masses.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eThis commentary is uncited and demonstrably false, as optimal testosterone levels in men are associated with physical and mental wellbeing. A \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/20923289\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003ethorough medical review\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e of testosterone levels and psychological health status found that men with lower testosterone (in the normal range) had higher levels of anxiety and depression than men with average to above-average testosterone.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eTestosterone therapy is incredibly effective at treating depression in men with low testosterone, as documented by a \u003c\/span\u003e\u003ca href=\"https:\/\/pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov\/30427999\/\"\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003emeta-review\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/a\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003e on the topic.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe find it unfortunate that many mainstream journalists are not fulfilling their basic research obligations to help inform the public in an objective manner, and we hope that publishers hire more medically-credentialed writers in the future.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003ch2 style=\"text-align: center;\"\u003e\u003cb\u003eConclusion\u003c\/b\u003e\u003c\/h2\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eWe don’t recommend testicular tanning for testosterone improvement, as there doesn't appear to be any legitimate medical research backing its efficacy. \u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eMale testosterone levels are dropping population-wide, and we look forward to future medical studies testing ways to mitigate the harmful environmental effects potentially causing this drop.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e\n\u003cp\u003e\u003cspan style=\"font-weight: 400;\"\u003eRed light therapy does have some potential benefits for pain, inflammation, skin conditions and other health outcomes, but we recommend that people speak with their doctor prior to purchasing a red light therapy device because there isn’t much research establishing clear standards for safety.\u003c\/span\u003e\u003c\/p\u003e","blog_id":49281925193,"author":"Calloway Cook","user_id":26601750601,"published_at":"2022-04-19T09:27:02-04:00","updated_at":"2022-10-03T21:24:24-04:00","summary_html":"We analyze medical research to determine if red light therapy applied to the testicles can really promote testosterone production. We examine whether male testosterone is dropping on a population basis, and criticize mainstream press coverage of this topic.","template_suffix":"","handle":"testicular-tanning","tags":"_related:health-device, _related:men's-health, _related:testosterone"}

Testicular Tanning: What the Medical Research Says

Testicular Tanning: What the Medical Research Says


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Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.
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Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.


Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.

Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s), and is presented for informational purposes only. We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to medical devices.

There's been a ton of controversy recently about a term coined by Tucker Carlson called “testicular tanning.” He’s referring to the use of red light therapy applied to the testicles to stimulate testosterone. Carlson claims that this is a miracle cure for male testosterone, while mainstream media outlets are nearly unified in claiming that this is unscientific.

In this article we’ll analyze what the research actually says about whether red light therapy can promote testosterone production, and whether it even matters.

Is Male Testosterone Dropping?

Male testosterone is dropping precipitously in industrialized societies. A medical review published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2007 analyzed serum testosterone levels across nearly two decades of data collection.

The researchers found that there was an “age-independent decline” in testosterone that remained even when factors known to lower testosterone like obesity were adjusted for. This suggests that there are environmental factors causing the decline.

A more recent study, published in 2021, found that adolescent and young adult men in the US experienced a statistically significant decrease in testosterone between the years 2000 and 2016.

In less than two decades, the study authors noted that the average testosterone level in the young adults tested dropped from around 600 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl) to around 450 ng/dl. This is a drop of around 25% which is significant.

This trend isn’t unique to American men. An extremely thorough medical study published in 2020 in the Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology Journal examined data from over 100,000 patients in Israel. The researchers found a “highly significant age-independent decline in total testosterone” over the 13 years of the study.

We’ve noted similar results in many other population studies we’ve reviewed from other industrialized nations. Thus we can conclude that male testosterone levels do appear to be dropping across the industrialized world.

Why Is Male Testosterone Dropping?

There are many theories as to why male testosterone is declining so significantly. The answer is likely multifactorial, but one of the theories backed by scientific research is the influence of hormone-disrupting chemicals in our environment.

Microplastics and plasticizing chemicals are a byproduct of industrialization, and are documented in human and animal studies to negatively affect testosterone in males.

The class of chemicals that make plastics soft, called “plasticizers,” disrupt endocrine function and appear to bio-accumulate in the tissue of mammals.

Researchers are still yet to uncover the exact biochemical mechanisms that cause this class of chemicals to interfere with male hormone metabolism, but the fact that the trend of lowered testosterone remains constant even when adjusting for factors like obesity and exercise suggests that most of the cause is environmental.

Does Testicular Tanning Increase Testosterone?

There isn’t much medical research suggesting that red light therapy applied to the testicles (or to the body generally) improves testosterone levels.

One clinical trial examined the effects of full-body red light therapy treatment on a variety of health parameters in healthy young athletes, including heart rate variability, cortisol levels, and testosterone. 

The researchers found that the treatment had no effect on testosterone levels, though it should be noted that the participants were young (aged 18) male professional athletes, which is a group less likely to have issues with testosterone metabolism than the average patient.

An animal study found that red light therapy increased sperm damage and had no impact on testosterone levels in rams. 

We can’t locate any medical studies that suggest red light therapy is effective for improving testosterone levels, so we will conclude that “testicular tanning” is ineffective for boosting T at this point in time.

Unscientific Mainstream Press Coverage of This Topic

We’ve been disappointed by the coverage of this topic in mainstream media. Rather than analyzing the health claim based on medical data to provide consumers with valuable information, most of the coverage has been emotionally-driven rhetoric without a shred of evidence.

An InsideHook article written by a man named Kirk Hook on the topic of testicular tanning stated the following “‘Red light therapy’ doesn’t appear to be a thing anyone is talking about professionally or medically, basically because the idea makes no sense.”

Kirk Hook has no medical credentials and this conclusion is totally unscientific and false. Red light therapy (medically termed “low level light therapy”) returns 6,950 results in PubMed, the leading resource for medical studies. 

While it may not be effective for improving testosterone, it has promising early results for other health outcomes. As one randomly selected example, a meta-study published in 2021 found that red light therapy is effective in early research as a side-effect-free treatment for fibromyalgia pain. 

A piece on The Guardian about this topic claims that “most men have far more testosterone than they need,” suggesting that the population-level decline in testosterone has no negative effects on male health. The author is named Sam Wolfson and he describes himself as a “freelance music writer” on his author bio. He has no apparent medical credentials and it’s concerning that a major publisher is allowing him to give medical advice to the masses.

This commentary is uncited and demonstrably false, as optimal testosterone levels in men are associated with physical and mental wellbeing. A thorough medical review of testosterone levels and psychological health status found that men with lower testosterone (in the normal range) had higher levels of anxiety and depression than men with average to above-average testosterone.

Testosterone therapy is incredibly effective at treating depression in men with low testosterone, as documented by a meta-review on the topic.

We find it unfortunate that many mainstream journalists are not fulfilling their basic research obligations to help inform the public in an objective manner, and we hope that publishers hire more medically-credentialed writers in the future.

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Conclusion

We don’t recommend testicular tanning for testosterone improvement, as there doesn't appear to be any legitimate medical research backing its efficacy. 

Male testosterone levels are dropping population-wide, and we look forward to future medical studies testing ways to mitigate the harmful environmental effects potentially causing this drop.

Red light therapy does have some potential benefits for pain, inflammation, skin conditions and other health outcomes, but we recommend that people speak with their doctor prior to purchasing a red light therapy device because there isn’t much research establishing clear standards for safety.




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