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The effects of a low-fat diet on testosterone

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Testosterone is most commonly associated with sex drive in men but it can also affect mental health, bone health, muscle mass, fat storage and red blood cell production. Women’s ovaries also produce testosterone but in very low amounts. But how does a low fat diet affects testosterone?

The production of testosterone begins during puberty and after the age of 30, the production begins to slow down.  

What is testosterone? 

Testosterone is a hormone responsible for regulating fertility, muscle mass, fat distribution and red blood cell production.  Some men take testosterone in a form of steroids to boost their sex drive and ability to grow muscle mass. These are normally obtained from unreliable sources as doctors only tend to prescribe testosterone supplements only for specified conditions.  

Symptoms of low testosterone 

Low testosterone can affect a man greatly, similar to a woman when she entered into menopause. Your body can respond in various ways but symptoms of low testosterone are: 

  • Decreased sex drive 
  • Weight loss or weight gain 
  • Bouts of depression 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Negative moods 
  • Less body hair 
  • Thinner bones 

When the testosterone levels drop, a man can struggle to build muscle mass and maintain his strength. These are vital for reducing the risks of fat gain. Sometimes men find their ability to change their body into muscular and protective figure, it makes them feel strong. So, when this ability is limited, it can lead to bouts of depression, low self-esteem and moodiness.  

What causes testosterone to drop? 

As mentioned above, testosterone naturally drops after approximately 30 years of age but some other factors may also influence testosterone levels. For example, injury to testicles, cancer treatments (chemotherapy or radiation). Some other medical conditions may also affect the level of testosterone, and these include:  

  • AIDS 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Alcoholism 
  • Cirrhosis of the liver 
  • Type 2 Diabetes 
  • Kidney or liver diseases 

A man’s diet can also reduce testosterone. Foods that can reduce testosterone include: 

  • Cheese 
  • Yogurt 
  • Bread & Pasta 
  • Chocolate 
  • Alcohol 

Effects of diet composition on testosterone levels 

The foods mentioned above as well as a diet can also suppress or reduce your testosterone.  

To illustrate, there was a study conducted by Hamalalian et al (1983) which examined the effects of low-fat diet on testosterone. The participants which included 30 healthy, middle-aged men, had their testosterone levels checked before and after the diet. This study found that by reducing fat consumption to as low as 20% of the total daily calories may reduce testosterone levels. 

However, don’t take this as ‘okay, so if I eat more fat my testosterone levels will peak’ because the next study shows the contrary.   

Fo instance, a study conducted by Volek et al (2001) investigated the effects of a high-fat diet on testosterone levels.  The study reported a significant reduction to testosterone levels 1 hour post a high-fat rich meal, and it continued to be suppressed for approximately 8 hours and then, it returned to baseline. 

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Conclusion

Both these studies show that fat intake has an effect on testosterone levels. If you consume a low-fat diet, your testosterone levels will decrease but if you eat a high-fat meal your testosterone will become suppressed for up to 8 hours. At this point, it is fair to say that a moderate amount of fat may keep testosterone levels stabilised but more research may be required for a definitive conclusion.

 Recommended article: Do Fats make you fat?

References 

Biggers, A. (2019). What Is Testosterone, and How Does It Affect Your Health?. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-testosterone#low-t-levels [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019]. 

Gordon, L. (2018). Foods that are killing your sex drive. [online] Fox News. Available at: https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/foods-that-are-killing-your-sex-drive [Accessed 17 Oct. 

Hamalalian, E., Adlercreutz, H., Puska, P. and Pietinen, P. (1983). Decrease of serum total and free testosterone during a low-fat high-fibre diet. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6298507 [Accessed 16 Oct. 2019]. 

MacGill, M. and Daniel Murrell, M. (2019). Testosterone: Functions, deficiencies, and supplements. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/276013.php [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019]. 

Volek, J., Goacutemez, A., Love, D., Avery, N., Sharman, M. and Kreamar, W. (2001). Effects of a high-fat diet on postabsorptive and postprandial testosterone responses to a fat-rich meal. [online] Available at: https://www.metabolismjournal.com/article/S0026-0495(01)56546-4/abstract [Accessed 16 Oct. 2019]. 

 

 

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