The Role of Androgen in Body Functions

By  //  September 27, 2023

Hormones are the body’s vast network of chemical messengers that relay crucial signals from glands and organs to cells and tissues. Without these signals, the body cannot function properly.

Androgens are a group of steroid hormones that play critical roles in body and skeletal protein and integrity, metabolism, reproduction, mood regulation, cognitive performance, heart health, and more.

Steroid hormones are synthesized from cholesterol in a series of chemical conversions that start with the enzyme esterase stimulating cholesterol into the steroidogenic pathway. Through various enzyme actions, cholesterol becomes pregnenolone, then DHEA or progesterone, before becoming androstenedione, and finally testosterone. 

The most known androgen hormones are:

  • Androstenedione
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
  • Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
  • Testosterone 

While these hormones are primarily produced in the gonads (ovaries and testes), they may also come from adrenal glands, kidneys, or other tissues (where they act locally), depending on the hormone. 

Androgen hormones interact with the body’s network of androgen receptors, where they enter the cell through its membrane to stimulate its actions. Andropause, a condition associated with testosterone decline, is not a male-only occurrence. Women, who more commonly focus on menopause as their “change-of-life hormonal decline,” can experience significant health and well-being issues from testosterone deficiency.

Not all steroid hormones are androgens, but all androgen hormones are steroids. Other steroid hormones include estrogens, progestogens, corticosteroids, glucocorticoids, and mineralocorticoids. 

Role of Androgens

Androgens have multiple bodily functions, although they are most thought of as sex hormones, promoting puberty and reproduction. Testosterone may be the most known androgen hormone and is considered the primary male sex hormone. However, testosterone is just as crucial for women as it is for men, albeit in a lesser quantity. 

Androstenedione is primarily a precursor hormone to testosterone and estrogen. Women produce androstenedione in their ovaries and adrenal glands, which release it into the bloodstream for conversion into about half a female’s testosterone and most of the estrone (one of the three forms of estrogen). Men produce much of their androstenedione in their testes, with the remainder in the adrenals. Most of the androstenedione produced in the testes converts rapidly into testosterone.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is another precursor hormone to testosterone and estrogen and is primarily produced by the outer layer of the adrenal glands (adrenal cortex). The testes and ovaries also produce small amounts of DHEA. A DHEA deficiency can lead to a decline in testosterone and estrogen in men and women.

Dihydrotestosterone comes from converting about 10% of the body’s testosterone into DHT daily. DHT conversion occurs in the ovaries (females), the prostate and testes (males), and the liver and skin. DHT helps regulate hair growth and has powerful androgenic actions, including increasing the risk of male pattern baldness and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in males. It can also affect hair growth in women.

Testosterone is the leading androgen hormone, with functions that are crucial during puberty and adulthood. We look at some of the roles testosterone has below: 

  • Puberty

Testosterone plays a crucial role during puberty in sexual development and physical growth. In boys, higher testosterone levels deepen the voice and stimulate hair growth on the face, chest, genitals, and underarms. It also stimulates underarm and pubic hair growth in girls. 

  • Bone density

Testosterone plays a vital role in bone remodeling, helping to keep bones sturdy as we age. Bone loss can occur in people who have untreated low testosterone levels. 

  • Muscle development

Testosterone is crucial for maintaining body protein, especially in the form of muscle mass. It works with estrogen and growth hormone to promote, increase, and protect muscle mass and prevent muscle loss and weakness. 

  • Hormone synthesis

Although a powerful hormone itself, testosterone is a precursor hormone to estradiol (the most common form of estrogen in men and women). An enzyme called aromatase from belly fat converts free testosterone into estradiol. Carrying excess fat increases testosterone conversion and can lead to a condition called estrogen dominance, where the body has too much estrogen and not enough testosterone, which further causes fat retention. 

  • Hair growth

Testosterone and DHT play crucial roles in hair growth, and too much conversion of testosterone into DHT can lead to hair loss. Besides these androgens, another essential hormone is growth hormone, which is required for healthy hair growth as it stimulates cell regeneration throughout the body. Find out how HGH and hair growth are connected and if an HGH deficiency could cause hair thinning or loss. 

  • Red blood cell production

Testosterone stimulates erythropoietin production, leading to red blood cell production in bone marrow. It also improves immature bone marrow cell responsiveness to erythropoietin. 

  • Brain functions

Androgen receptors stimulate endorphins, learning, cognition, and memory throughout the brain. Testosterone deficiency may contribute to dementia, impaired cognitive functions, and depression.

  • Sexual function and libido

Testosterone is a leading hormone for sex drive in men and women. It is also crucial for spermatogenesis (sperm cell development in men) and follicle development in women. Testosterone also helps regulate menstruation in females. 

How Do Low Levels of Androgen Hormones Impact Men and Women?

Androgen hormones have a vast and significant influence throughout the body, acting on the central nervous system, metabolism, skeletomuscular system, brain, hair growth, circulatory system, and more. Low hormone levels can cause a decline in these areas, leading to varied symptoms affecting health and well-being. 

Declining androgen levels in men can lead to the following issues:

  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Mood changes, including depression, anxiety, stress, and irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Low sex drive 
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of morning erections
  • Decreased sperm count/infertility
  • Gynecomastia (breast enlargement)
  • Muscle loss
  • Bone loss
  • Anemia 
  • Hot flushes
  • Increased risk of prostate cancer
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Reduced exercise tolerance

Declining androgen levels in women can lead to the following issues:

  • Abnormal menstruation
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness and sexual dissatisfaction 
  • Infertility 
  • Hair loss (scalp and pubic)
  • Weak bones
  • Muscle loss
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Lack of focus
  • Memory loss
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression and other mood changes
  • Increased anxiety and stress
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lack of energy
  • Anemia
  • Headaches 

Androgens help to maintain healthy motivation, productivity, and socialization. People with low androgen levels may lose the desire to excel at work or enjoy social activities with others. 

Because of its role in promoting red blood cell production, low testosterone levels can lead to impaired circulation and heart problems. Testosterone also supports glucose uptake into the cells, and low levels can increase the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. 

Research linking low testosterone to increased dementia risks and Alzheimer’s disease shows the importance of keeping androgen hormones balanced as we age. 


Androgen hormones are some of the most essential chemical messengers in the adult body. Long after puberty, hormones such as testosterone play a critical role in protecting brain and heart health, metabolism, red blood cell production, sexual functions, hair growth, muscle mass, and bone density.

Low androgen levels can increase the risk of developing conditions such as dementia, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, obesity, depression, and more. Regular hormone level tests can help reduce these risks and alert when hormone treatment is necessary.