As you’ve probably always suspected, being attractive, muscular, and virile comes at a cost. While it was fun being an Adonis in your mid-to-late 20s, the biology that made it happen is turning on you in your early-to-mid 40s. Testosterone was your friend while you were growing chest hair at 12. Now it’s turned on you as you sprout ear hair at 42.
Why don’t all guys age like George Clooney, instead of becoming extras in a prostate disease/erectile dysfunction/Rogaine ad? Richard Bribiescas, an Evolutionary Biologist at Yale University believes your afflictions (yes, dadbod is an affliction) can be blamed on evolution. And, it may have a lot to do with all the effort men devote to trying to become a father.
It All Comes Down to Getting Down
Men have shorter lives than women (you know what they say, “live fast, die before your wife.”). One reason for that is stupidity. There are just more risky, dangerous things guys are programmed to do to impress a girl. But if you survive until middle age, your mortality rate is still higher than a woman’s — even though both genders die of many of the same things like heart disease. Hey biology, give men a break. As it turns out, male bodies just aren’t as resilient. Bribiescas believes the main reason for that is our sexual hormones, like testosterone. In Men: Evolutionary Life And History, Bribiescas argues that, evolutionarily speaking, “everything comes at a cost and is a tradeoff.” You dying early is just the cost of being handsome and sexy.
You Burn A Higher Octane Fuel
Testosterone is essentially man fuel. It’s responsible for the male sex drive, larger male muscles, higher metabolic rate, and Brad Pitt’s honey-over-gravel voice. But it’s a caustic fuel, and causes hard wear and tear. For example: Testosterone suppresses the immune system (and leads to almost everything discussed below). Think of yourself like a Ferrari, built for speed, but most often you just see one with smoke coming out of the hood on the side of the road.
Blame Baldness On “Super Testosterone”
It appears baldness is related to the accumulation of dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, in the scalp. That DHT is a form of “super testosterone.” “It contributes to the death of cells that nurture and promote hair growth.” For this reason, DHT inhibitors like Propecia exist. If you don’t like the idea of taking drugs to save your hairline, lycopene (found in carrots and tomatoes) is a natural inhibitor. Then again, if that actually worked, American men would eat a whole lot more gazpacho.
The Plus And Minus Of Low T
The big T helps keep your energy levels high, your metabolism cooking, and your muscles rock solid. But then, after guys have a child, testosterone declines. This makes maintaining Ryan Reynolds-like abs difficult. Bribiescas believes there’s a reason your T gets low. If testosterone inhibits the immune system, having less of it could result in a dad that’s better equipped to fight disease (and less testosterone means less doing dumb, youthful stuff). “This probably has an evolutionary root in some pudgy dad who was able to keep his body and soul together to take care of his kids,” he says. Why weren’t ballads written about this man?
The Truth About Erectile Dysfunction
Studies have shown that rates of erectile dysfunction are the same in first world men as men living in developing-world villages, suggesting it’s more about aging than lifestyle. (And definitely not about being with the same woman for decades — right, honey?)
So, if low testosterone is the problem, why not take more? Bribiescas says it works for some men, but not all. “It’s a trade-off where the same things that keep you healthy and robust contribute to downstream negative effects,” says Bribiescas. Remember: Testosterone is a caustic fuel. Aging men who take it may lose fat, feel happier, and more energetic. But they may also have a heart attack within months. “The rest of your body is still aging, so your internal organs are less able to handle the higher metabolic rate.” To continue the car metaphor: it’s like putting jet fuel in a Kia Sportage.
Your Hair Is Stressed Out
Going gray isn’t specific to being male (despite what Just For Men tells you). In every silver fox’s case it comes down to the melanocytes, those cells that give hair its color. They can become damaged by free radicals, in the same way oxygen turns apple slices brown. “The longer you’re alive, the more damage they cause to your cells and your DNA,” Bribiescas says. Plus it makes you look distinguished. Like George Clooney.