Optimal testosterone levels are critical to men’s health. Low testosterone levels are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Healthy testosterone levels are also key for men’s athletic performance, mental health, and sexual health.
Since the 1970s, there has been a decrease in men’s average testosterone levels and rates of hypogonadism (medically low testosterone) have been increasing.
Low-risk dietary strategies could be a useful treatment for low testosterone.
In the study, the team combined together with the results of six well-controlled studies with a total of 206 participants.
These studies first put men on a high-fat diet (40% fat), and then transferred them to a low-fat diet (20% fat), and found their testosterone levels decreased by 10-15% on average.
Particularly bad were vegetarian low-fat diets causing decreases in testosterone up to 26%.
The team linked their results to similar studies conducted in humans and mice. These studies found high intakes of monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts may boost testosterone production.
However, omega 6 polyunsaturated fats predominantly found in vegetable oils, may damage the cells’ ability to produce testosterone.
This is because highly unsaturated fats such as polyunsaturated fats are more prone to oxidation, which causes cell damage.
The team says the benefits of low-fat diets such as reduced cholesterol levels, should be weighed up against the potential downsides, such as decreased testosterone levels.
Traditionally, dietary guidelines have focused on limiting fat intake, with the current UK and US guidelines limiting fat intake to less than 35% of total calories.
However, as more research on the benefits of high fat, low carbohydrate diets is done, this traditional view is coming under increasing scrutiny.
In recent years, high-fat diets have been shown to decrease triglycerides, decrease blood pressure, increase HDL cholesterol (aka ‘good cholesterol’), and now with this latest research: increase testosterone levels.
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