Salivary Testosterone Levels – What Should You Know About It?
These days, more people are opting for non-invasive and convenient testing methods for the assessment of hormonal imbalance. For example, testosterone levels can be easily measured through salivary sampling.
In 1976, presence of male sex hormone testosterone in the saliva was first confirmed by Landman. Further research and clinical testing confirmed the notion that hormones are secreted in the saliva and can be measured with specialized techniques. In 1980, a scientist Gaskell used gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy to measure the testosterone levels in the salivary sample and concluded that:
- The recommended salivary testosterone range in an average adult male should be anywhere between 200 to 500 pmol/L.
- Salivary glands are richly supplied with testosterone receptors and it is possible to measure hormonal concentration with maximum precision.
What Is The Working Principle Of Salivary Hormone Sampling?
Salivary assessment is usually performed to measure the concentration of non-protein bound forms of hormones that are present in the blood and are secreted in the saliva or other body secretions. Although, salivary sampling method works for most steroidal hormones but thyroxine measurement is usually troublesome and unreliable. It is imperative to mention that salivary assessment is mostly used for testosterone measurements.
With advancing age, testosterone declines and may present with symptoms of andropause. Recent studies also indicates that age dependent decline in testosterone can also be linked to sarcopenia i.e. decreased muscle mass and the frailty syndrome. Despite the fact that salivary hormonal assessment is a painless method, many doctors do not approve saliva testing for checking testosterone levels because very few research studies have actually validated this testing method. On the other hand, a lot of investigators support salivary testosterone determination. Specialized kits have also been designed to perform at-home testing.
Study conducted by the researchers at University of Buenos Aires greatly supports the correlation between testosterone levels in the blood and saliva. This study was conducted in the year 2007 on 72 males (20 men with low serum levels of testosterone and 52 with normal levels). Cross-analysis of blood and salivary samples suggested that the testosterone levels in the blood and saliva were consistent; thus making salivary testing a reliable test for the measurement of testosterone. Another study was conducted by researchers of Saint Louis University in which testosterone levels in 127 healthy individuals (both salivary and serum levels) was analyzed. Results suggested that salivary and serum testosterone were consistent regardless of the measurement technique.
On the contrary, when research team from Case Western University conducted testosterone assessment tests on 56 women (who were in post-menopausal stage and were being treated with patches of testosterone for hypoactive sexual desire disorder), a different outcome was achieved. In this study, salivary and serum testosterone were found to be different; suggesting that salivary test does not always deliver reliable results. Investigators suggests that this disparity in results could be due to nature of formulation or differences in the metabolism of testosterone in the males and females.
Since, salivary testosterone assessment is a non-invasive test, concerned males can rely on the home-kits for screening purposes. However, it is recommended to confirm the results by blood investigation. The cost of salivary testosterone examination is around $30 and most health insurance companies do not cover the cost of home-kits.
1. Hofman, L. F. (2001). Human saliva as a diagnostic specimen. The Journal of nutrition, 131(5), 1621S-1625S.
2. Gröschl, M. (2008). Current status of salivary hormone analysis. Clinical Chemistry, 54(11), 1759-1769.
3. Arregger, A. L., Contreras, L. N., Tumilasci, O. R., Aquilano, D. R., & Cardoso, E. M. (2007). Salivary testosterone: a reliable approach to the diagnosis of male hypogonadism. Clinical endocrinology, 67(5), 656-662.
4. Granger, D. A., Kivlighan, K. T., Fortunato, C., Harmon, A. G., Hibel, L. C., Schwartz, E. B., & Whembolua, G. L. (2007). Integration of salivary biomarkers into developmental and behaviorally-oriented research: problems and solutions for collecting specimens. Physiology & behavior, 92(4), 583-590.