Ethnic Androgen Differentials II

For some background, see Ethnic Androgen Differentials I

Testosterone Molecule

There are some important studies which provide a framework for understanding ethnic androgen differences. One such study is Zitzmann and Nieschlag (2001). They performed a review of the effects of testosterone (T). Some important points:

  • Stress, depressive illness and PTSD decreases T
  • Strength training exercise increases T post-workout but continuous strength training does not affect T significantly
  • Higher T does not necessarily increase aggression:

There is strong evidence for an interdependent feedback mechanism between testosterone and aggression, modified by experiences of victory and defeat, as well as by education, cultural and socioeconomic background.


The immense variety of individual response patterns to androgens is demonstrated by a controlled trial in which exceptionally high doses (600 mg/week) of testosterone cypionate were administered; maniac effects were reported in only 16% of the men. The psychological behaviour of the others remained unremarkable. Effects of external administration of testosterone on aggressive behaviour are controversial (55-58).

  • T may affect some cognitive abilities
  • T seems to affect verbal skills
  • Low T may enhance musical ability in males
  • Low status occupations seem to lower T levels due to lack of situational control


In violent sexual offenders, serum testosterone levels were significantly higher in the group of native Americans than in Caucasians (41, 108). Such analyses have led to conclusions that a predisposition to crime may be genetically based, have consistent racial variations and may be expressed as serum testosterone levels and brain size, which are supposed to cause different crime rates in Asian, Caucasian and African-Americans (109). Not biased by selection of subjects in conflict with the law, other studies demonstrate similar testosterone levels in African-American and Caucasian American men. (110, 111). In contradiction to the so-called predisposition theories on crime rates and race, another study involving 1127 men and adjusting data for age and body mass index (BMI), showed levels of total and bioavailable testosterone to be highest in Asian Americans, followed by African-Americans and lowest in Caucasian Americans (112). A greater risk for African-Americans of developing prostate cancer in comparison to Caucasians or Asians seems to exist; testosterone levels are not different, but hereditary factors concerning polymorphism in androgen receptors and 5a-reductase activity are held responsible (113). Supporting results were found comparing Americans of Chinese or Caucasian origin, explaining the lower expression of beard and body hair in Asians (114). Ethnic differences in sex hormone-dependent features are obviously restricted to genetic polymorphisms, leading to differential enzyme and receptor activity, but not to different testosterone levels (115, 116). The cultural background can also influence testosterone levels through nutritional factors (see Dietary influences; 117).

  • High T increases libido but does not translate into high sexual activity
  • The data are inconclusive if male homosexuals have lower T
  • High T does not necessarily correlate with aggression, both high and low levels of T can result in aggressive behaviour
  • Increasing age may decrease androgen levels
  • Obesity causes a decrease in T
  • Diet influences T
  • Living at higher altitudes seems to lower T
  • There seems to be a correlation between voice deepness and T
  • Balding may not necessarily be associated with T
  • Burns, infection, injury, disease, poor digestion and nutrient absorption can affect T
  • Marijuana does not seem to lower T
  • Excessive alcohol lowers T
  • A person’s T varies throughout the year (figure 1)




However, methodological problems of measuring testosterone in body fluids are often overlooked. Serum testosterone levels are determined routinely by radioimmunoassays or luminescence immunoassays. Because there is a strong diurnal variation with morning concentrations being approximately 20-30% higher than evening values (Fig. 1; (191-197)), samples should always be taken during the morning hours. Only then will single point samples be representative (198-200). Seasonal variations of testosterone levels should also be taken into consideration, at least in studies comparing several groups at different time points (Fig. 1; (201-203)). Because testosterone is a small molecule and present in relatively low concentrations, it is not surprising that there is marked inter- and intra-assay bias and variation (Fig. 2). Therefore, comparing testosterone levels determined with different assays and/or in different laboratories becomes questionable. Quality control uncovers this problem, but has not contributed to its solution. Direct measuring of free testosterone concentrations, which are found at much lower concentrations than the total amount of this steroid (about 2%), is subject to even greater difficulties.

In summary, although assays have been available for over 30 years, measurement of serum testosterone is still relatively unreliable and represents a significant bias when interpreting results and correlating them with biological phenomena. Unfortunately, peer-reviewed journals as the ultimate filter have not contributed much to improve the reliability of published values. Therefore, all reported variations of testosterone levels and their associations with physical and mental aspects must be viewed very critically.



Because of the great inter-individual variation, application of these results to individuals is questionable. A generalisation towards phenomenological structures would also require sublimation of various one-dimensional findings. Combining results concerning hormone interactions with physical or psychological phenomena to create new constructs explaining sociological observations can be dangerous and misleading. It is too easy a step from assigning high testosterone levels to aggressive people to the explanation of legal offences of violent nature and further, discrimination of racial or subcultural groups. This could mean, for example, that persons involved in regular marathon training are likely to show a submissive kind of conflict management and will not develop a balding hair pattern, or that watching blue movies would lead to premature balding which could then be prevented by a strict vegetarian diet or by moving to the mountains. It could mean that a man exposed to increased mental stress is likely to show extraordinary verbal fluency. Regarding all results mentioned, a person with high testosterone levels would then be living at sea level, would refrain from endurance training, enjoy high socioeconomic status as well as daily consumption of meat and sexual pleasures, but avoid gaining too much weight. He would be characterised by increased spatial cognition, but not be able to utter sentences fluently. He would have a deep voice, sing in the bass register, his beard growth would be prolific and his head would be bald. He would react rather aggressively to threatening situations. A person with low testosterone levels would be a mountaineer, exercising daily by long runs, living a frugal life with vegetarian food, without a partner and constantly harassed by his environment. He would have a full head of hair, a high-pitched voice, and would converse fluently about his submissive behavior and his lack of ability to solve mathematical problems (see Table 1). The described persons might exist, but they are likely to be rare, and just how high their actual testosterone levels would really be remains open to question. The rest of the male population cannot be judged by testosterone levels and we cannot guess their androgen levels by looking at their lives. Simplifying approaches are likely to produce results with simple structures, which, while logically consistent in themselves, do not conform to the external structures we experience. Many other factors of influence are omitted in these approaches such as experiences that are partially reinforced by hormonal feedback on behaviour that caused them and that social and physical environment and genetic background affect not only an individual’s personality but also a single parameter such as testosterone levels.

Source: Zitzmann, M., and E. Nieschlag. 2001. Testosterone levels in healthy men and the relation to behavioural and physical characteristics: facts and constructs. European Journal of Endocrinology 144(3): 183-197.


  • High T makes men aggressive: not necessarily, some low T high aggression males are calmed with T supplementation;
  • East Asians have the lowest T and Africans the highest, these are also genetically determined: not necessarily, some studies have found that Europeans have the lowest bio-available T levels and East Asians the highest. Also, nutrition plays a factor in T levels;
  • Peer-reviewed studies are authoritative and give credence to ethnic T variations: not necessarily, T is affected by (1.) the yearly timing of sample collection (2.) the method of analysis (3.) the daily timing of sample collection; and
  • Realistic portrayals of different ethnics can be found by analyzing testosterone: not necessarily, until better measurement methods are found, these studies if used improperly can create simplistic, racist and illogical views. Additionally, the data are inconclusive so no realistic portrayals can be derived.

Forensic Anthropology

Here are some quotes from Adams (2007) on ethnicity in anthropology.

Generally, forensic anthropologists tend to classify individuals into three main groups: Caucasoid, or white/European; Negroid, or black/African; and Mongoloid, or Native American/Asian. Clearly, these groups do not encompass the diversity of the modern world, and the skeletons of some people do not fit comfortably into these broad classifications………

The best area to estimate race/ancestry is from the skull, especially the bones of the face. While features of the postcranial skeleton may also be observed, most forensic anthropologists will first look to the skull and teeth for answers. Many of the differences are relative, meaning that they vary on a scale (e.g., narrow versus wide, or present versus absent) and a familiarity with the range of human variation is essential.

Adams goes on to identify physical attributes which are used to classify skulls which include:

  • Nasal aperture;
  • Nasal sill/guttering;
  • Carabelli’s cusp;
  • Alveolar prognathism;
  • Shape of thigh bone; and
  • Shovel-shaped maxillary incisors.

So does this mean that there are races? Not necessarily. Rather, it means that there are anthropological categories which have verifiable physical attributes.

Let’s assume that there is a population of 100 people (Group O) who exhibit normal physical variations. To keep it simple, let said variations only be skin tone which vary in a continuum. Let us further assume that there is some event which causes the formation of 4 groups which separate themselves from each other. However, all 4 groups have all the skin tone variations but in different amounts.

Let Group A have more pink skins, Group B, more dark brown skins, Group C, more brown skins and group D, more light brown skins. In time, we would expect that there would be a preponderance of skin tones according to the dominant gene in a group and the level of skin coding genetic mutations.

This is what we find today. Separated populations have predominant skin tones within a smaller range. Does that mean that there are four separate races? Recall, that all four groups had input from persons with a continuum of tones. The answer would be no even if there are legitimate present features which can be used to accurately identify all of the members of the four groups.

This may be where racists go wrong in that they think that because there are physical attributes which can identify an individual’s group accurately, that said features indicate strongly fixed original groups instead of genetic and anthropological similarity due to separateness (i.e. group O producing groups A, B, C and D). Sadly, we have to wait on genetics to provide more data; though, it doesn’t look promising for those who think they’re for the most part, racially “pure.”

Source: Adams, Bradley. 2007. Forensic Anthropology. New York, USA: Chelsea House: 43-44.

You are your worst enemy

How does a homosexual friendly female answer the following question: Does anal sex cause incontinence? Well, Tracy Clark-Flory on answers the above question in the following steps.

1. Set up a strawman (bad):

Half of us thought it was crazed right-wing propaganda (I was in that camp).

2. Quote from a biased but reliable-ish source (good):

Glickman adds, “Muscles don’t wear out because you use them. If stretching muscles necessarily caused them to tear, long-term yoga practitioners would be in trouble. Just like any other muscle, relaxing and stretching the anus doesn’t cause damage if you listen to your body and don’t force it.”

Glickman has a PhD in Adult Sexuality Education but he is no medical doctor or specialist (gastroenterologist). While his comments make sense, it also does not answer the question of should sphincter muscles be voluntarily stretched through anal sex. Frankly, this is too simplistic to be of any use as a positive argument.

3. Quote a biased and unreliable source (bad):

Similarly, in “The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men,” Bill Brent writes, “Stretching the sphincter and rectal tissue safely over time tends to strengthen rather than loosen the muscles associated with anal sex, as people who practice fisting and using large toys can attest.” That’s a gem of counterintuitive wisdom to share with your friends over Sunday brunch — just maybe wait until the second round of mimosas.

Bill Brent was a bisexual (possible bias) and his book was published by Cleis Press described on Wikipedia as “an independent publisher of books in the areas of sexuality, erotica, feminism, gay and lesbian studies, gender studies, fiction, and human rights.” In other words, not a scientific press.

4. End by unsuccessfully using science to smear the strawman you previously created (very bad):

More reliably, a 1997 study found no higher incidence of fecal incontinence in gay men who bottom and nonreceptive hetero dudes (a control group — what a concept!). Of course, there are also plenty of examples of homophobic right-wing propaganda on the topic (see here) that are not even remotely based in medical fact. It’s hard to say which is to blame for that doctor’s misinformation, but, regardless, it might be time for your friend to find a new one.

First off, what 1997 study is being referring to? I believe she means: Anal sphincter structure and function in homosexual males engaging in anoreceptive intercourse. If she does, she possibly shot herself in the foot because the fecal incontinence seems to be self-reports from only 14 men.

Secondly, that link is to a book which uses multiple medical books and peer-reviewed journal articles, two articles of which are on the same linked page. Additionally, the author does not seem to be homophobic, right-wing or even sympathetic to religious objections to homosexuality (though he seems to be Christian but does not use that in his evaluation). And that’s what one would call, shooting yourself in the foot head.

If LGBTIs and those friendly to their cause want to move into normalcy, they need to stop the cheap shots or risk being viewed as loony as those they themselves view as loony.

Grey’s Anatomy: Colour Blind Casting

Grey’s Anatomy fashions itself as having colour-blind casting. The data strongly suggests otherwise. The top table lists the US medical school graduates for 2002 through 2012 by self-described ethnicity. The bottom table uses data from Wikipedia’s list of characters for Grey’s Anatomy for seasons 1 through 9 (which is still ongoing). Only the primary (main) and secondary (recurring) medical graduates are listed. The “avg %” is the average percentage of a particular ethnic group for the ten year period 2002 to 2012 and represents what should be seen on the TV serial. The “% total” lists what is seen.

GAAs shown, the so-called colour-blind casting has resulted in Africans being over-represented by 213% and Europeans by 11%. Native Americans/Pacific Islanders, Asians (East and South) and Latinos are under-represented with Asians diminished by 81% and Latinos by 45%. There are no Native Americans/Pacific Islanders at all. Alternatively, if one combined all the non-Africans and non-Europeans into one group, they should represent 29.3% of Grey’s Anatomy characters if the show was trying to reflect reality. Rather, they only obtained 7.6% of the series portrayals.

Unless my calculations are waaaaaay off, it would seem that the point of colour-blind casting in Grey’s Anatomy is to create an Afrocentric reality.

Data set:

Europeans: Izobel Stevens, Mark Sloan, Derek Shepherd, Arizona Robbins, George O’Malley, Addison Montgomery, April Kepner, Alex Karev, Owen Hunt, Erica Hahn, Meredith Grey, Alexandra Grey, Theodora Altman, Virginia Dixon, Swender, Margaret Campbell, Robert Stark, Lucy Fields, Sydney Heron, Reed Adamson, Charles Percy, Steve Mostow, Pierce, Megan Mostow, Laura, Sadie Harris, Norman Shales, Jo Wilson, Shane Ross, Heather Brooks, Stephanie Edwards, Leah Murphy, Katharine Wyatt, Colin Marlowe, Finn Dandridge, Ellis Grey, Harper Avery

Asians: Christina Yang, Raj Sen

Africans: Miranda Bailey, Richard Webber, Preston Burke, Jackson Avery, Benjamin Warren, Catherine Avery, Kimberly Elise, Brandon Scott, Candice Afia, Shane Ross, Jerrika Hinton

Latinos: Calliope Torres, Graciella Guzman

Update: 2013-03-06: If one looks at Washington state alone (where the fictitious Seattle Grace Hospital is located), the numbers are even more staggering:

GA3Now, only Africans are inflated, by almost 4000%. As before, the biggest losers are East and South Asians.

Update: 2013-03-15: In S09E17, there is a new African male OB/GYN, Dr. Jason Myers (Charles Michael Davis).

Update: 2013-03-22: Wikipedia missed a surgeon of African descent, Dr. Jeff Russell (Dominic Hoffman). This brings (national) African over-representation to 265% and state over-representation to 4551%

vlcsnap-2013-03-22-18h47m21s84Token East Asian female surgeon Dr. Yang references a male East Asian surgeon (Dr. Marcus Cho) in a magazine. She refers to him as a “like a high-functioning moron who was a year behind me at Stanford” and “he’s a moron!”

Update: 2013-03-26: There are two Europeans not accounted for, Dr. Craig Thomas (William Daniels) and Dr. Parker (Steven Culp). This brings (national) African over-representation to 252%

Update: 2013-07-08: European doctor Cooper Freedman also unaccounted.