The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Testosterone, immune function, and life history transitions in the Philippines

LEE T. GETTLER1, SONNY S. AGUSTIN2, ALAN B. FERANIL2, THOMAS W. MCDADE3 and CHRISTOPHER W. KUZAWA3.

1Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, 2Office of Population Studies Foundation, University of San Carlos, 3Anthropology, Northwestern University

Friday 11:00-11:15, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Fathers have lower testosterone than non-fathers in many cultural settings, and it was recently shown that the transition to first-time fatherhood caused testosterone to decline in a sample from the Philippines. There is also evidence that testosterone may have immunosuppressive effects. Thus, one plausible health benefit of reduced paternal testosterone could be enhanced immunity. Drawing on a large, ongoing study in Cebu City, Philippines, we test whether men transitioning to fatherhood show increases in salivary secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) compared to men who do not become fathers and assess whether testosterone impacts these relationships (n = 319). Higher SIgA helps protect the body against infectious agents at mucosal surfaces. Using data collected at two time points (2005 & 2009) 4.5 years apart, we found that new fathers did not differ in changes in SIgA compared to non-fathers. However, regardless of parenthood or marital status, men with greater testosterone declines over the 4.5-year period had larger increases in SIgA (p = 0.0001). Although seemingly unrelated to potential trade-offs between mating and parenting in this sample, we did find evidence indicating that multi-year declines in testosterone predict enhanced SIgA profiles. These data are consistent with the idea that testosterone suppresses some aspects of immunity.

This work was supported by: Wenner Gren Foundation (Gr. 7356; Gr. 8186), National Science Foundation (BCS-0542182; BCS-0962212).

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