Nicotine pouches have increased rapidly in popularity in recent years as a less harmful, smoke-free, and tobacco-free nicotine alternative. As these pouches gain traction in the market, questions arise regarding their potential impact on various aspects of health, including hormone levels. One such hormone that has piqued the interest of researchers and users alike is testosterone.
This brings us to one question in particular: nicotine pouches and testosterone. How do nicotine pouches impact testosterone and is there any connection between them?
This article delves into the intriguing connection between nicotine pouches and testosterone, seeking to unravel the complexities of this relationship.
Understanding Nicotine Pouches
Nicotine pouches are innovative smokeless alternatives designed for nicotine delivery. Unlike traditional tobacco products, these pouches contain no tobacco and are not combustible, making them much more convenient and less harmful than traditional tobacco products.
Nicotine Pouches are simply placed under the upper lip where they release nicotine into the bloodstream, completely discreetly.
The typical composition includes nicotine, food-grade fillers, pH adjusters, and flavorings. The absence of combustion distinguishes nicotine pouches from traditional smoking methods, eliminating harmful byproducts associated with burning tobacco.
The popularity of nicotine pouches has seen a global surge, particularly due to an increase in health consciousness and a growing understanding of the detrimental health consequences of smoking. This has led to many new and innovative nicotine products on the market that aim to offer less harmful nicotine alternatives to smoking.
The Basics of Testosterone
Testosterone is primarily produced in the testes in men and ovaries in women and belongs to the class of hormones known as androgens. It plays an important role in the development of male reproductive tissues, muscle mass, bone density, and overall well-being.
Beyond its role in reproductive health, testosterone influences different physiological processes, including the development of secondary sexual characteristics, maintenance of muscle mass, regulation of mood, and support for cognitive functions.
Testosterone plays a key role in the development of male reproductive organs during fetal development and puberty. It contributes to the deepening of the voice, the growth of facial and body hair, and the development of the Adam’s apple.
Testosterone also plays a role in maintaining muscle mass and bone density. It supports the production of red blood cells and helps regulate fat distribution.
Testosterone levels typically peak during adolescence and early adulthood and gradually decline with age. This decline is a natural part of the aging process. Various lifestyle choices like diet, exercise, and sleep patterns can influence testosterone levels. Chronic stress and inadequate sleep, for instance, may contribute to hormonal imbalances. Lastly, certain medical conditions, such as hypogonadism, can lead to low testosterone levels. Conversely, conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women may result in elevated testosterone levels.
Now, do nicotine pouches have any impact on testosterone levels one way or the other? Let’s take a closer look at what the research suggests.
Existing Research on Nicotine and Testosterone
Before we dig in, it’s important to highlight the fact that more studies need to be conducted that specifically look at the relationship between nicotine pouches and testosterone. This is because nicotine pouches are still a relatively new product on the market. There are plenty of studies that have looked at the relationship between smoking and testosterone but these findings can obviously not be directly applied to nicotine pouch use. This is because smoking is obviously a lot different from nicotine pouches and there are many other factors, in addition to the nicotine, that impact the body and health. The inhalation of smoke comes with a long list of health consequences that nicotine pouches simply do not have.
This is why we want to raise a warning that when you look at studies that study the relationship between nicotine and testosterone, it’s important to look at the method through which the nicotine was administered.
Some studies have, for example, indicated that smoking might lead to a reduction in testosterone levels, which is likely linked to the impact of various toxicants in tobacco smoke.
In a study conducted by Umeå University in Sweden, they stated the following:
”We found no associations between snus use and established cardiometabolic risk factors, but there was evidence of lower concentrations of inflammatory and vitamin D-status biomarkers in both men and women, and higher testosterone concentrations in men who were currently using snus.” (Source)
This study looked specifically at Swedish tobacco snus and not nicotine pouches, however, nicotine pouches and snus are quite similar. Bear in mind that nicotine pouches are a product development of snus and are used in the same way, albeit without the tobacco. This is why this result is likely very relevant for nicotine pouches as well.
Another study that also looked at snus found that ”After adjustments, total sperm count was 24% lower (P = 0.03) and testosterone 14% higher (P < 0.001) in 109 users of snuff than in non-users, whereas cotinine was positively associated with testosterone and oestradiol (P < 0.001). Numbers of boxes of snuff used per week were associated with testosterone and FSH (P < 0.001).”
Moreover, the study concluded that ”Applied to the general population, the consumption of smoke-free tobacco by the use of snuff was associated with a lower sperm count and a higher testosterone, for which the extent seemed to play a role.” (Source)
Whilst this relates to smoking, a 2016 research review looked at the effects of nicotine on more than 13,000 men and 6,000 women. They found that men who smoked appeared to have higher testosterone levels than nonsmokers but there was no significant association between smoking and testosterone changes in women.
Another study of more than 3,000 men published in the International Journal of Andrology found a positive correlation between smoking and increased testosterone levels. The participants involved in this research exhibited a mean smoking duration of 42.8 years, engaging in a daily consumption of approximately 11.6 cigarettes, in contrast to their non-smoking counterparts. Remarkably, individuals who smoked displayed a 15% elevation in total testosterone levels and a 13% rise in free testosterone levels when compared to those who had never indulged in smoking. Furthermore, it was unexpectedly observed that an escalation in the daily cigarette intake corresponded with a concurrent increase in both total and free testosterone levels. At the same time, it’s important to note that smoking has many harmful health consequences in the long term and equally so on testosterone levels.
For example, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that heavy smokers (meaning 36.5 packs or more per year) show a faster age-related decline in testosterone than non-smokers.
Again, this study only looked at smoking and not nicotine pouch use.
As you can see, the research results are somewhat mixed, and the fact that there are limited studies specifically on nicotine pouches makes it even more difficult to draw any definite conclusions. Moreover, it’s important to note that it’s difficult to draw any conclusions about nicotine from smoking and testosterone levels due to the many other factors involved in smoking. With nicotine pouches, the only ”active” ingredient is nicotine, nothing else.
Potential Mechanisms of Interaction
Receptor Activation: Nicotine is a potent alkaloid found in nicotine pouches and interacts with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the central and peripheral nervous systems. These receptors play an important role in neurotransmission and can influence the release of various hormones, including those involved in the endocrine system.
Hormonal Signaling: Activation of nAChRs can trigger the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. This, in turn, may impact hormonal signaling pathways. The connections between the nervous and endocrine systems raise questions about how nicotine could influence the production and regulation of hormones like testosterone.
Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Gonadal (HPG) Axis: Testosterone production is regulated by the HPG axis and involves interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and testes. Nicotine’s influence on this axis is a subject of interest, with some studies suggesting that it may affect the release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), both integral to testosterone synthesis.
Testicular Function: Nicotine’s impact on Leydig cells within the testes, responsible for testosterone production, is another potential pathway. Changes in Leydig cell function could influence the overall testosterone levels in the body.
Lifestyle and Behavioral Factors
It’s important to note that other factors can play an even greater impact on your testosterone levels than nicotine.
Dietary habits play a key role in overall health, including hormone regulation. Nutrients like zinc, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids are known to influence testosterone levels. It’s useful to understand how dietary choices interact with nicotine pouch to get a more comprehensive picture of the collective impact on your hormonal balance.
Physical Activity: Regular exercise has been associated with higher testosterone levels. Something that would be interesting to explore for researchers in the future would be physical activity, nicotine pouch use, and hormonal regulation in order to determine the broader lifestyle factors influencing testosterone.
Patterns of Use: Patterns of nicotine pouch use, including frequency, duration, and nicotine strength will all impact the individual responses. These factors can impact the total testosterone level and lead to different results for different people.
At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that health outcomes result from a combination of factors. A holistic approach considers not only nicotine pouch use but also other lifestyle elements. Integrating data on sleep quality, overall mental health, and stress levels provides a more nuanced understanding of the complex web of influences on testosterone.