CLOSE
iStock
iStock

Do Men Have a Monthly Hormone Cycle?

iStock
iStock

It’s well established that women undergo a monthly menstrual cycle that includes fluctuations in hormones, and eventually a cease to these cycles at menopause. While there are numerous jokes about male “manstruation” and “manopause,” mental_floss spoke with two experts in male endocrinology and fertility—Paul Marshburn, a reproductive endocrinologist at Carolinas HealthCare System in North Carolina, and Brad Anawalt, an endocrinologist and chief of medicine at University of Washington Medical Center—to answer the question: Do men undergo a similar hormone cycle?

Despite one researcher’s controversial theory that men do have a monthly cycle (his results were never replicated), the short answer is almost certainly no, men do not experience a cyclical hormone shift on a monthly basis. Instead, they experience a daily (or diurnal) rise and fall of the most prominent hormone in their bodies, testosterone (T). While male bodies also produce a form of estrogen called estradiol (largely through a process that converts testosterone into estradiol), testosterone is either directly or indirectly the key to many health functions in their bodies, responsible for regulating sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and producing red blood cells and sperm. For men in good to average health, testosterone levels are highest in the morning hours, which cause morning erections, and increased energy and vitality. Testosterone levels then slowly drop as the day goes on and are at their lowest at the end of the day and evening. Because of this, men should get blood testosterone levels checked in the morning hours for an accurate baseline.

Certain activities can cause fleeting spikes of testosterone during the day, such as intense exercise or sexual activity. Likewise, stress and illness can cause sudden drops in testosterone in a given day. Levels also decline naturally over the course of a man’s life as he ages; his testosterone levels begin to drop as early as age 30 between 0.5 and one percent below his baseline per year.

Other causes for drops in testosterone include illness, from the seasonal flu to significant diseases like diabetes or cancer, since the body’s need to conserve energy often reduces the need to produce sperm or have sex. Some research points to seasonal sources of spikes and surges in testosterone, particularly in countries that experience longer than usual light and dark cycles, like Finland or Norway, where testosterone levels bottom out in summer and reach a high in late fall. Eating disorders and lack of sleep can also effect testosterone levels and sperm production.

Testosterone therapy to replace normal, age-related declines is a growing area of treatment. The research body on this is small, but a 2016 New England Journal of Medicine study found conclusively that testosterone therapy in men ages 65 and over improved sexual function and libido.

Loss of testosterone leads to a reduction in sexual arousal, decreased ability to achieve an erection, and loss of muscle mass and tone and bone marrow and density. More research has also found that low estradiol levels in aging men may be linked to cardiovascular disease and heart failure.

Ultimately, the best way for men to keep their testosterone at normal levels is to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors such as exercise and healthy eating, and to keep to a minimum opioid medications, alcohol and smoking.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
What Is the Meaning Behind "420"?
iStock
iStock

Whether or not you’re a marijuana enthusiast, you’re probably aware that today is an unofficial holiday for those who are. April 20—4/20—is a day when pot smokers around the world come together to, well, smoke pot. Others use the day to push for legalization, holding marches and rallies.

But why the code 420? There are a lot of theories as to why that particular number was chosen, but most of them are wrong. You may have heard that 420 is police code for possession, or maybe it’s the penal code for marijuana use. Both are false. There is a California Senate Bill 420 that refers to the use of medical marijuana, but the bill was named for the code, not the other way around.

As far as anyone can tell, the phrase started with a bunch of high school students. Back in 1971, a group of kids at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, got in the habit of meeting at 4:20 to smoke after school. When they’d see each other in the hallways during the day, their shorthand was “420 Louis,” meaning, “Let’s meet at the Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 to smoke.”

Somehow, the phrase caught on—and when the Grateful Dead eventually picked it up, "420" spread through the greater community like wildfire. What began as a silly code passed between classes is now a worldwide event for smokers and legalization activists everywhere—not a bad accomplishment for a bunch of high school stoners.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Why Is a Pineapple Called a Pineapple?
iStock
iStock

by James Hunt

Ask an English-speaking person whether they've heard of a pineapple, and you'll probably receive little more than a puzzled look. Surely, every schoolchild has heard of this distinctive tropical fruit—if not in its capacity as produce, then as a dessert ring, or smoothie ingredient, or essential component of a Hawaiian pizza.

But ask an English-speaking person if they've ever heard of the ananas fruit and you'll probably get similarly puzzled looks, but for the opposite reason. The average English speaker has no clue what an ananas is—even though it's the name given to the pineapple in almost every other major global language.

In Arabic, German, French, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Swedish, Turkish—even in Latin and Esperanto—the pineapple is known as an ananas, give or take local variations in the alphabet and accents. In the languages where it isn't, it's often because the word has been imported from English, such as in the case of the Japanese パイナップル (painappuru) and the Welsh pinafel.

So how is it that English managed to pick the wrong side in this fight so spectacularly? Would not a pineapple, by any other name, taste as weird and tingly?

To figure out where things went wrong for English as a language, we have to go back and look at how Europeans first encountered the fruit in question, which is native to South America. It was first catalogued by Columbus's expedition to Guadeloupe in 1493, and they called it piña de Indes, meaning "pine of the Indians"—not because the plant resembled a pine tree (it doesn't) but because they thought the fruit looked like a pine cone (umm, ... it still doesn't. But you can sort of see it.)

Columbus was on a Spanish mission and, dutifully, the Spanish still use the shortened form piñas to describe the fruit. But almost every other European language (including Portuguese, Columbus's native tongue) decided to stick with the name given to the fruit by the indigenous Tupí people of South America: ananas, which means "excellent fruit."

According to etymological sources, the English word pineapple was first applied to the fruit in 1664, but that didn't end the great pineapple versus ananas debate. Even as late as the 19th century, there are examples of both forms in concurrent use within the English language; for example, in the title of Thomas Baldwin's Short Practical Directions For The Culture Of The Ananas; Or Pine Apple Plant, which was published in 1813.

So given that we knew what both words meant, why didn't English speakers just let go of this illogical and unhelpful linguistic distinction? The ultimate reason may be: We just think our own language is better than everyone else's.

You see, pineapple was already an English word before it was applied to the fruit. First used in 1398, it was originally used to describe what we now call pine cones. Hilariously, the term pine cones wasn't recorded until 1694, suggesting that the application of pineapple to the ananas fruit probably meant that people had to find an alternative to avoid confusion. And while ananas hung around on the periphery of the language for a time, when given a choice between using a local word and a foreign, imported one, the English went with the former so often that the latter essentially died out.

Of course, it's not too late to change our minds. If you want to ask for ananas the next time you order a pizza, give it a try (though we can't say what you'd up with as a result).

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios