Boost testosterone by eating more fat!
The authors of a recent study determined that "Low-fat diets appear to decrease testosterone levels in men, but further randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm this effect.”
The study comprised 206 healthy men with average testosterone who followed a high-fat diet followed by a low-fat diet. The results showed their mean total testosterone levels were 10% to 15% lower (but still in the normal range) during the low-fat diet.
Registered nutritionist Joseph Whittaker, MSc, University of Worcester, and statistician Kexin Wu, MSc, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom, conducted the study.
"I think our results are consistent and fairly strong, but they are not strong enough to give blanket recommendations," Whittaker told Medscape Medical News.
However, "if somebody has low testosterone, particularly borderline, they could try increasing their fat intake, may be on a Mediterranean diet," he said, and see if that works to increase their testosterone by 60 ng/dL, the weighted mean difference in total testosterone levels between the low-fat vs. high-fat diet interventions in this meta-analysis.
"A Mediterranean diet is a good way to increase 'healthy fats,' mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs, respectively), which will likely decrease cardiovascular disease risk, and boost testosterone at the same time," Whittaker noted.
He stressed that Olive oil had been shown to boost testosterone more than butter, reducing Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). Nuts deliver "healthy fats" and continually lower CVD and mortality and might raise testosterone. Other sources of so-called "good fat" in a healthy diet include avocado and red meat, and poultry in reasonable amounts.
"It is controversial, but our results also indicate that foods with saturated fatty acids may boost testosterone," he added, noting, however, that such foods are also associated with an increase in cholesterol.
Is low testosterone (“Low-T”) linked to a sparser diet?
Men require healthy testosterone levels for robust physical prowess, mental health, and sexual health, and diminished testosterone levels are associated with an elevated risk of heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease, as per an assertion about this research announced by the University of Worcester.
It is a well-known and proven fact that testosterone levels plummet approximately 10% per decade as men age. However, since nutrition experts began advocating a lower-fat diet in 1965, the drop in testosterone has accelerated.
Fat consumption dwindled from 45% of the diet in 1965 to 35% in 1991 and remained around that lower level through to 2011.
However, it is not definitive that this lesser dietary fat consumption might play a role in the simultaneous plunge in men's testosterone levels.
Whittaker and Wu conducted a systematic literature review. They identified six crossover intervention studies that contrasted testosterone levels during low-fat vs. high-fat diets and then consolidated these studies in a meta-analysis.
Five studies each enrolled 6 to 43 healthy men from North America, the UK, and Scandinavia, and the sixth study (Hill 1980) enrolled 34 healthy men from North America and 39 farmworkers from South Africa.
When combined, the men were 34-54 years old and slightly overweight (a mean body mass index of roughly 27 kg/m2 ) with standard testosterone (i.e., >300 ng/dL, based on the 2018 American Urological Association Guidelines criteria).
Most men consumed a high-fat diet (40% of calories from fat) first, then switched to a low-fat diet (on average 20% of calories from fat; range, 7% to 25%). The group of men from South Africa received the low-fat diet first.
To put this into perspective, UK guidelines call for a fat intake of less than 35% of daily calories, and US guidelines suggest a fat intake of 20% to 35% of daily calories.
The low-fat and high-fat interventions ranged from 2 to 10 weeks.
Low-Fat Vegetarian Diets = tumbling testosterone levels
On average, the men's total testosterone was 475 mg/dL when they were eating a low-fat diet and 532 mg/dL when ingesting a high-fat diet.
Conversely, the South African men (Hill 2018 South African) had heightened testosterone levels when they ate a low-fat diet. This illustrates that "men with European ancestry may experience a greater decrease in testosterone in response to a low-fat diet," the researchers concluded.
The drop in total testosterone in the low-fat vs. high-fat diet was most significant (26%) in the two studies of men who partook in a vegetarian diet (Hill 1979 and Hill 1980 North American). These diets may have lacked zinc because even a small zinc deficiency has been demonstrated to decrease total testosterone, Whittaker and colleagues surmised.
The meta-analysis also concluded that levels of free testosterone, urinary testosterone, and dihydrotestosterone atrophied during the low-fat diet. In contrast, levels of luteinizing hormone or sex hormone-binding globulin were commensurate with both diets.
Advice for men With Low-T who are Overweight/Obese
What nutritional guidance should practitioners give to men who have the dangerous conditions of low testosterone and are overweight/Obese?
"If you are very overweight, losing weight is going to improve your testosterone dramatically," Whittaker said.
But there is a problem. Advocates of a seemingly endless array of diets are often downright bickering over the benefits of a low-fat vs. low-carbohydrate diet to lose weight.
"In general," he continued, "the literature shows low carb (high fat) diets are better for weight loss [although many will disagree with that statement]."
Although nutrition guidelines have emphasized the importance of restricting fat intake, fat in the diet is also linked with lower triglyceride levels and blood pressure and higher High-density lipoprotein (HDL), the ("good") cholesterol levels, and in this study, elevated testosterone levels.
As always, more research is needed.
The researchers concede the study limitations: the meta-analysis consisted of just a few small studies with miscellaneous designs and conclusions, and there was possible bias from contradictory variables.
"Ideally, we would like to see a few more studies to confirm our results," Whittaker said in the statement. "However, these studies may never come; normally, researchers want to find new results, not replicate old ones. In the meantime, men with low testosterone would be wise to avoid low-fat diets."
Even though the jury is still out, all indications point to the benefits of adding additional fat to your nutritional plan.
But not just any type of fat! At our clinic, we believe in and practice a holistic approach. Hormone replacement is our main business. But hormone replacement alone will not maximize your treatments. We will give detailed, specific advice on controlling stress, the importance of sleep, physical fitness, and, of course, nutrition.
There are healthy fats, less than healthy fats, and bad fats. We will cut through the dense fog of nutritional confusion and provide you with the knowledge you need to make smart decisions in all aspects of health.
Contact us for a FREE, no-obligation discussion.
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