Dear Mark: High T, More Wives? Plus Testosterone for Women and the Best Primal Roux

Chemical formula of Testosterone on a blackboardFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, I respond to a reader wondering which direction the arrow of casuality points in the married Swahili man/testosterone level study I discussed last week. Are high testosterone levels in polygamous Swahili men a cause or consequence of having more than one wife? Second, what’s the deal with testosterone in women? Do they need it as much as men do? And last but not least, what’s the best gluten-free, Primal-friendly flour to use for making a roux?

Let’s go:

What if the multiple wives was a consequence not a cause of the high testosterone?

Good point. It’s totally possible. That’s always the rub on observational studies: The causation is difficult, if not impossible, to uncover.

Let’s speculate a bit. As always, I pride myself on informed speculation. I’m not just throwing random nonsense out there to see what sticks.

Why might high T cause multiple wives?

Women might prefer men with higher testosterone, and they may be able to detect it. There’s some indication that women can “smell” high testosterone. In one study, researchers had a group of men take testosterone tests and then wear T-shirts for two days. Women smelled the worn shirts sans-men and rated the attractiveness and sex appeal of each shirt’s odor. Overall, women at the “fertile” phase of their menstrual cycle were more attracted to the smell of t-shirts worn by men with high testosterone. Women may also use indirect indicators as proxies for men’s testosterone levels. For example, one study found that women were most attracted to men with contiguous facial hair and body hair on the chest and sternum, perhaps as indications of active testosterone levels, and less attracted to completely clean-shaven men with patchy facial hair. Another found that women use facial cues to determine men’s testosterone level and attractiveness.

Men with higher T levels tend to choose riskier—and more lucrative—careers. If that holds true in Kenya, and the Swahili men with high T were able to procure more resources, they’d have a better chance at getting extra wives. Swahili marriage traditions require the groom and his family make several payments or donations to the bride’s. First, the groom makes many small payments and gives a steady stream of gifts to the bride and her family throughout the courting period. Then there’s mahari, or “bride wealth”—a payment from groom’s family to the bride’s. There’s also kitu—a much larger payment from the groom to the bride’s father.

Testosterone increases dominance and assertiveness. In a culture with extremely traditional gender roles, men without classically masculine dominance traits likely won’t have the advantage. Doubly so if there are multiple wives.

Interesting that the studies on testosterone are conducted on men, if I understand correctly, it’s an important hormone for women as well. My doc said my testosterone levels were way to low and said an increase would result in – yes, more ‘drive’ – not just sex drive, but motivation, enthursiasm. So, if I change the gender of that sentence, for fun: “Above all else, women with a healthy testosterone level enjoy increased self-confidence and drive. This can manifest as “aggression” in the sense that they stand up for themselves and pursue their goals. In other words, it’s workable and even productive.” Better a woman who is happy pursuing her goals than an irritable one, I’d say. Lol.

Definitely agree on all accounts. Testosterone acts mostly the same in women, except women are far more sensitive to it than men and thus require far less raw material to get the desired effects.

All in all, it’s incredibly vital for women’s health in the right amounts.

It maintains bone health.

It increases libido.

It promotes emotional stability and assertiveness, reducing unfounded aggression, irritability, and anxiety.

Anyone know which of these will make the best roux?

A traditional roux—flour cooked in fat until browned, then added to a sauce for thickening— is difficult to reproduce with Primal flours.

Masa harina, the lime-treated corn flour used to make tortillas, is gluten-free, does brown in the presence of fat and heat, and makes a pretty good roux. However, it lends a distinctive sweet corniness to the finished dish. Be aware and adjust accordingly. It may not mesh with your dish.

A potato starch slurry is really my go-to way to thicken sauce. It doesn’t provide the distinct flavor of a roux, as the flour isn’t browned in fat, but it provides excellent texture and thickening power.

Another benefit of using potato starch slurries is that they can be added right at the end. With a roux, you commit from the start. If you used too much flour, or too little, it’s harder to adjust the end product. Potato starch slurries increase the saucier’s agility.

Understand that potato starch slurries are entirely flavorless. If you add it right at the end without doing anything else, the slurry can dull the sauce. Whatever you do, taste your sauce after incorporating the slurry. You may need a touch more salt or a splash of lemon juice to regain the flavor.

That’s it for this week, folks. Happy Memorial Day to all who are honoring the occasion. Thanks for reading, and be sure to chime in with your input down below.

What’s your take on the testosterone/spousal count issue—cause or effect? Did you know testosterone matters for women, too, and what would you like to add to the discussion? Finally, how do you do your Primal roux?

Primal Kitchen Frozen Bowls

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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20 thoughts on “Dear Mark: High T, More Wives? Plus Testosterone for Women and the Best Primal Roux”

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  1. For women thinking about boosting their testosterone level, think twice. I knew a woman who did that (via a licensed MD) and immediately developed breast tumors. Maybe she would have gotten cancer regardless, but messing around too much with the hormones can have negative results.

    1. She may also have converted testosterone quickly to estrogen through aromatase. She may also have stored a large amount bioactive xenoestrogens (typically acquired through plastics, cans, TV dinners, soy, pesticides and others) and the conversion of testosterone may have put her over the edge. Just adding testosterone is likely not a great idea for anyone, especially if it gets converted to estrogen, this is why older men are not recommended to take testosterone. Older men convert testosterone to DHT (highly bioactive, promotes male pattern baldness) and estrogen, which contributes to prostate issues.

  2. I don’t know if it’s primal enough, but I hold strongly by sorghum flour as the best gluten free solution for making roux. You can sub it 1 for 1 in place of wheat flour, it thickens gravies nicely with no chalkiness or unpleasant texture, and best of all, it actually tastes good (rather like wheat, if it’s not too blasphemous to utter any praise of wheat here. . . ).

    1. Anna, can’t believe that you said “sorghum” flour as it relates to making roux… I say this because sorghum extract was shown to increase 5-alpha reductase which is responsible for the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Remember that DHT is the downstream metabolite of testosterone that is responsible for our masculine characteristics… body hair, aggressive alpha behavior, strength… Testosterone is more anabolic and DHT is more androgenic.

      Turns out that you can make your roux and your DHT with sorghum!! Don’t forget to eat your liver too… the nutrient dense nourishment of liver makes everything better!

    2. Ah, thank you. Corn and I do not get along, and I was rather reluctant to try lime treated corn flour.

  3. Ah, Primal roux, that elusive beast. I only have one recipe that I ever really used a roux for, although it was a house favorite. I finally gave up on figuring out how to create a primal roux after Mark tossed off a comment about using egg yolks as thickeners. This recipe was the result, and while it may or may not be a little thinner, it didn’t seem to change the flavor much at all.

  4. How about kuzu root? I’ve not tried to make a roux of it but years ago during my macrobiotic phase used it as a thickener

  5. I am a heterosexual female. I was prescribed a tiny topical daily dose of testerone cream to boost my libido as I entered peri menopause. Within a couple of weeks I found myself looking at women the way I imagine men do. It was interesting but icky (if I were gay I wouldn’t hesitate to honor that, but I am not). Just sayin’. That s$&t is powerful!

    1. Thank you! It turned my world upside down and has me seeing a sex and relationship therapist for this very thing. I have seriously considered ending my marriage and coming out as gay as I have overwhelming attraction to women now.

      I called my hormone doctor to ask if testosterone could change a women’s sexual orientation and he said no, it doesn’t work that way. Still, he cut my dose in half but that changed nothing

      I didn’t believe him but could find no research that even suggested such a thing. In fact, quite the opposite so I was left with the understanding that it basically juices and ramps up whatever underlying sexual attraction is already there.

      Female sexuality is quite fluid. Many straight women (probably most) admit to some level of attraction to other women, watch lesbian porn, etc. So I think my natural sexual fluidity is now on hyperdrive and testosterone has my libido so jacked that I have convinced myself that if I am not full on lesbian, I’m close.

      Be careful with this stuff. Seriously, now I understand the male sex drive much better. I went from being in a happy heterosexual marriage to thinking about wanting sex with women all day long. I am not exaggerating.

      I have scoured the internet for weeks trying to find a comment like yours — anyone at all who experienced the same thing — and found nothing.

      Such a relief. This stuff is POWERFUL.

  6. I’m diabetic, so I don’t do roux. What I do do, is use a mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) cooked in fat , then blend it thoroughly with bone broth. Delicious and more nutricious than a roux based sauce.

  7. hmm quite interesting so high testosterone changes the odour of a person I wonder what it smells like I know this is gonna make me sound like a creep haha but I like the slightly sweaty smell of my significant other don’t know about other women cause I don’t go that close that I can smell them haha

    1. Make you sound like a creep? Not at all. The natural smell (aroma?) of a healthy male body is usually very appealing to women. And vice-versa.

  8. My wife and I use Organic White Rice Flour by Bobs Red Mill. Fine finished product especially when using homemade chicken or beef stock to thicken!

  9. Mochiko (sweet rice flour) works well and looks just like old-fashioned wheat flour gravy. Not primal, but not used in amounts large enough to count. Deglazing with wine, red wine vinegar, or citrus, reducing, and adding a butter swirl at the last minute (with the heat off) makes an elegant primal sauce.

  10. the best roux i have found to be is to sprinkle… a little ( 1 tsp) of glucomannon powder (huge bag on amazon will last you 2 years for 19.00) into your drippings and add broth until desired thickness… or is this gravy??? it is zero carb and delicious. too much glucomannon and the roux will become a ball of flavored dough, and you may possibly get a little gassy.