Apparently living in the mountains might raise your testosterone!
In this study (source), healthy, fit men between age 18 and 35 were sent from Palo Alto, California straight to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado the next day! There they lived in a research lab at the summit, which is 14,115 ft above sea level. Their testosterone rapidly increased from the low 700’s ng/dl to between 900 and a little over 1000. Testosterone stayed this high the whole time they were at altitude. It should be noted that these men were selected to be quite fit, so they were probably not gasping for air too much at this altitude. They were also made to eat enough to maintain their body weight, which is apparently hard to do at altitude.
Another study also shows an increase in testosterone at a more moderate altitude of about 6560 ft, which is just a bit higher than Colorado Springs.
Very low altitude decreases testosterone
Strangely, living about 984 ft BELOW sea level seems to decrease testosterone. (Source)
This suggests that the testosterone-altitude connection could have something to do with the variation of oxygen and carbon dioxide with altitude.
So does high altitude increase testosterone in reality?
It should be noted that other studies, such as this one, have found the opposite, that high altitude decreases testosterone. Another study found no significant change either way.
Possible reasons for these conflicting results:
- Some studies are done on mountain climbers. This level of exertion will lower testosterone a lot.
- Altitude tends to make people eat much less, along with increasing the calorie requirements, and a calorie deficit like this will decrease testosterone. The Pikes Peak study above found this effect as well. The men who increased testosterone were specifically made to eat enough to maintain their weight.
- Finally, the Pikes Peak study was done with quite fit men. Other people who would have to gasp for air at altitude will likely be so stressed that their testosterone will drop.
What about Colorado?
We do have data from somewhat lower parts of Colorado, showing that testosterone there is not noticeably higher than the rest of the USA. Although it is a bit higher than its neighbor Kansas. Most US states have dismally low testosterone levels on average due to the strange drop in testosterone over the decades, around the world. (We blame diet and endocrine disruptor chemical pollution) You can see our article on testosterone in US states for more info and for the Colorado testosterone data.