Do you think that men are slobs? If so, you're not alone. There's a perhaps unfair stereotype in our culture that men aren't very clean. We're often accused of leaving wet towels on the bed, depositing smelly socks by the couch, and generally leaving a trail of debris in our wake. But is it possible this tendency in men could be a medical condition? New research suggests it's possible.
We often connect manliness with testosterone. And the more "manly" the man, the sloppier he seems to be. After all, consider Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. (In case you don't remember, "there's no man in town half as manly," but he thinks nothing of putting his dirty feet on Belle's table.) Is it the testosterone that's making manly men slobs?
Research conducted with birds in Panama suggests just the opposite. In fact, giving the birds more testosterone (associated with masculinity) actually makes them clean up! Here's what happened.
Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have been working with a type of bird called golden-collared manakins. Male manakins typically do elaborate dances to show off to females before they mate. And they like to keep their display areas clean, the better to show off their moves in!
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Interestingly, when the researchers gave the birds extra testosterone, they were a lot more motivated to clean up compared to untreated birds. How much more motivated? Researchers tried adding weights to the leaves, and some birds removed leaves that weighed as much as they did! They even pulled up small tree seedlings. They were determined to get their stage clear! Even older males were motivated to come up with novel ways to tidy up, even though innovation is more commonly associated with juveniles.
When the female birds received testosterone, they did become more aggressive, but they weren't motivated to clean up. This suggests that the cleaning is an inherently male trait in the birds (or that the females were even less likely to feel bullied into cleaning up after a man!). The bottom line seems to be that testosterone activates particular neural circuits, and if females don't have those circuits, a behavior won't develop just from the presence of the hormone.
I hope this reassures my female readers that testosterone therapy isn't going to turn them into men. It won't cause their voices to change or their hair to fall out. But it can increase their energy levels, mental sharpness, and bone density. I think both men and women can benefit from having their testosterone levels checked and supplemented if needed. I've written before about the many benefits of this hormone.
Testosterone therapy may not magically turn your guy into a neat freak. But if he's having trouble picking up his socks because he's exhausted after a long day of work, testosterone could give him the energy he needs to pitch in. And it decreases mortality risk due to a number of causes, including cardiovascular disease.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD