Seasonal effects on salivary testosterone levels among lese males of the Ituri Forest, Zaire

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Abstract

Salivary testosterone levels were measured in 33 Lese horticulturalist men in June and August 1989 in order to examine the effects of improved nutritional status on testicular function. The Lese experience an annual hunger season from March through June that varies in impact from year to year, and was particularly severe in 1989. Even before annual weight losses, the Lese are at the low end of the desirable range and are below the desirable population mean for the body mass index. Despite significant weight gain in August, both morning and evening testosterone levels declined, perhaps reflecting a lagged recovery period undetected in the 3-month interval of the study. Lese mean salivary testosterone levels are lower, in general, than average levels in healthy Western controls. Lese males, however, exhibit similar, albeit suppressed, diurnal variation compared to healthy Western males and comparable age-related decline in free testosterone levels. Chronic undernourishment and poor dietary composition are probably responsible for lower testosterone levels among the Lese and a lack of recovery in testosterone production following nutritional improvement. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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