Image Credit: Sally Plank

Foods that Affect Testosterone Levels

A number of studies suggest that exposure to industrial pollutants may affect sexual function, for example, loss of libido, sexual dysfunction, and impotence. This may be due to effects on testosterone levels. In a study of men who ate a lot of contaminated fish, an elevation in PCB levels in the blood was associated with a lower concentration of testosterone levels. These pollutants are found predominantly in fish, but also meat and dairy. The lowest levels are found in plants (see Dietary Pollutants May Affect Testosterone Levels).

Testosterone doesn’t just play a role in the determination of secondary sex characteristics like facial hair at puberty. It also regulates normal sexual functioning and the overall physical and psychological well-being of adult men. Abnormally low levels of testosterone can lead to decreased physical endurance and memory capacity, loss of libido, drop in sperm count, loss of bone density, obesity, and depression.

Endocrine-disrupting compounds that build up in fish may be able to mimic or block hormone receptors, or alter rates of synthesis or breakdown of sex steroid hormones. In children, these pollutants may actually impair sexual development. Boys who are exposed may grow up with smaller penises (although only by about two-thirds of an inch shorter at most). Researchers have tried exposing cells from aborted fetal human penises to these kinds of dietary pollutants, and gene expression related to genital development is indeed affected at real-life exposure levels. We’re not sure if the effects on penis length are due to the pro-estrogenic effects of the toxins, though, or the anti-testosterone effects.

You’ve heard of save the whales? Well, male reproductive organs may be at risk from environmental hazards as well.

I previously addressed how we discovered the endocrine disruptor phenomenon in Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors and Allergies, as well as where they’re found (Dietary Sources of Alkylphenol Endocrine Disruptors).

For more on sustaining male virility, see Male Fertility and Diet, The Role of Diet in Declining Sperm Counts, and Dairy Estrogen and Male Fertility.

I’ve talked about the role a plastics chemical may play in male sexual functioning (BPA Plastic and Male Sexual Dysfunction). But it’s not just toxins, it’s the total diet (Survival of the Firmest: Erectile Dysfunction and Death), and not only in men (Cholesterol and Female Sexual Dysfunction).  My latest on the topic is Best Foods to Improve Sexual Function

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


31 responses to “Foods that Affect Testosterone Levels

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  1. First I am a big fan,BUT besides fish I do not find Foods in this post. Maybe it should be titled avoid foods containing pollution like fish?




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    1. I have not checked the dictionary but I think most will agree these are foods:
      “These pollutants are found predominantly in fish, but also meat and dairy.”
      “The lowest levels are found in plants (see Dietary Pollutants May Affect Testosterone Levels).”

      Well done as usual Doctor Greger!




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  2. This is good information, but what specific foods actually BOOST testosterone? Brazil nuts, yes? Any others? I read somewhere that flax seeds reduce testosterone, is that true? Dr. Gregor is a big proponent of daily intake of flax seeds, and I believe the benefits outweigh the negatives, but what are some foods we can focus on that actually boost testosterone production?




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    1. HI, Adam. There is not a lot of good research on boosting testosterone in humans with diet, even though there are a lot of claims on the web by those selling products for that purpose. Most of the research that does exist was performed on rodents, which may or may not apply to humans.
      Of interest was one study indicating that vitamin K could help with decreases in testosterone from administration of lipopolysaccharide. This is consistent with another study I saw, which I cannot find right now, in which older men who ate more greens retained more muscle mass than those who did not. Dark green leafy vegetables and natto, a Japanese fermented soybean product, are rich sources of vitamin K. Beta-carotene, also found in dark green leafies as well as yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots and yams, increased the calf muscle mass of rodents. Flax seeds may help to remove excess estrogen from the body, but I am not aware of any documented effects on testosterone. A quick search turned up nothing on Brazil nuts and testosterone, but they are the best source of dietary selenium, which is important for thyroid function. More on that here:
      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/four-nuts-once-a-month/
      Interestingly, it seems that alcohol might interfere with testosterone production. There is a video on phytoestrogens and beer here:
      https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-most-potent-phytoestrogen-is-in-beer/
      Here are links to some of the studies I mentioned above, in case you are interested.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21894328
      https://www.bioscience.org/2001/v6/d/navarro/fulltext.htm
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7018303
      I hope that helps!




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  3. Mercola had an article several years ago in his newsletter that scientists in India did a small study on men and found that if a man take 9 mg of boron supplement everyday, it will boost his testosterone level significantly. However, some nutritionists warn that boron is poisonous. However, they sell it as a supplement in the health food stores. So, I tried it, and it took only 24 hours to raise my libido. Some people would argue that it was just the power of suggestion. But, every time I try it, it works in raising my libido. However, some will argue that this is just the placebo effect working on my wishful thinking. Anyhow, I am sure that there are some out there wanting to disprove this.




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    1. I have seen some info (unfortunately I cannot recall where) that rather than increasing testosterone itself, boron increases DHT, the form of testosterone most associated with libido.




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  4. Cannot view the latest videos on my phone. Something has changed, I think from your end because I continue to be able to view the older videos and I regularly view other videos from other sources. Please help.




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    1. Hi this is Daniela, nutritionfacts moderator.
      Please see an article on this topic: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-effect-of-animal-protein-on-stress-hormones-testosterone-and-pregnancy/.
      The optimum operation of the human body is about balance, including hormonal balance, so it is not only about having the optimum amounts, but also of having the right proportions. A plant based diet was shown to help maintain balanced levels of hormones, where excessive animal protein acted the opposite way. Please see https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/hormones/ for more on hormones and their balance in the body from pregnancy through infancy, puberty and adult life.
      I hope this helps, have a great day, Daniela




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  5. Once upon a time I was told not to drink soymilk because of estrogen’s in it and how it would affect my PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). In this syndrome it is my understanding that the ovaries have cysts that make testosterone. It is also my understanding that BPA may pay a part in women developing this condition. This is one thing that people do not talk a lot about. Maybe because it is embarrassing to women who have grown beards, and lot’s of body hair. There are other side effects that I have never read about in literature that need to be addressed by doctors and researchers. Here we read about how pollutants can affect penis size. PCOS, does for a fact, affect the clitoris size along with sex drive. I’m glad that the subject came up and that you have written this for men and their health. But women are affected by these things too, sometimes severely (at least in their minds).




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  6. Respected sir.

    I am IMTIYAZ AHMAD
    I am working in cement industry and I have to attend the night duty also and our nature of duty is that we have to watch the computers throughout the whole shift. Sir I want to know that what are things we should fallow to stay healthy in the industrial environment and what the foods we should take in night shifts.




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    1. Your question is very specific and there probably isn’t an answer that specific, but if you read the advice on the rest of the site it can only help you by boosting your immunity and reducing the stress you put on your body.




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  7. I am getting a bit skeptical of all this strictly plant based diet advice. Obviously fruits and vegetables are very healthy for us, but lets remember that “Monsanto” is the king of the fertilizer and pesticide companies in this and many other countries. Plants are highly affected by these poisons along with acid rain. I recently spoke with an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and he stated that there was a study along time ago called the “Framingham Study” out of Massachusetts where the sugar industry paid-off to have that study highly skewed. The TCM expert stated that real butter, eggs, and milk, straight from the farm (100% organic) is actually healthy for you along with organic meats. He further stated that sugar and processed food is what is destroying our bodies. Why does the FDA allow food manufacturers to use multiple words to replace the word “sugar?” Would it be to protect jobs and make money while poisoning us? Why does the FDA refuse to list some herbs and supplements to replace drugs? Again its all about money. Humans were meant to be carnivores and herbivores, hence the design of our teeth. I think if you drink plenty of pure water, exercise regularly, and be selective about what you eat, you can live a long healthy life. What influence does Monsanto play in all these studies about eating strictly vegan? I am not saying there is a connection, but we have proof that certain industries pay a lot of money to keep us in the dark about what is best for “us.”




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    1. TCM isn’t based on science, but on Taoism, a religion. Yes, the philosophical ideas of Taoism can be positive. But as a medical practice, it’s no more scientific the western medieval idea of “humors,” which led to the practice of blood-letting. TCM practitioners believe you have to preserve “chi,” a similar idea and equally without scientific evidence. Your choice, of course, but we do live in an age of science.




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  8. <>

    I would dispute that our teeth are designed to chew meat or crunch bones. Try wrestling a pig to the ground with your bare hands and making a meal out of it. Our teeth are designed (or evolved) for chewing not ripping and tearing.

    William Roberts is a leading cardiovascular pathologist. He is the current editor of the American Journal of Cardiology— a position he has held since 1982. He has published over 1,500 articles. Roberts served as the first head of the pathology service at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health from 1964 to 1993. He has been located at Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute and Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas since 1993.

    Dr Roberts wrote an editorial titled, “We think we are one, we act as if we are one, but we are not one”. He was referring to us thinking that we are “carnivores”. His conclusion is:

    Although we think we are one and act as if we were one, human beings are not natural carnivores. When we kill animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh […] was never intended for human beings […].

    Carnivores have claws to hunt prey, smaller stomach and intestines, synthesize vitamin C, lap water, have sharper teeth, and have stronger jaws.

    Roberts, W. C. (1991) We think we are one, we act as if we are one, but we are not one. American Journal of Cardiology. 66 (10), 896.

    Harding, R. (2017) Low-Carbohydrate Mania: The Fantasies, Delusions, and Myths. Balboa Press.




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  9. A vegan diet may not be optimal for testosterone levels (see studies below). It probably isn’t a significant enough change for most people to care or notice and some of these studies have small number of people involved but if you do care you may not want to completely give up animal protein. For someone athletic it can be very uncomfortable to eat enough plant food to give you enough protein because of the high fiber in the high protein food. I wouldn’t see this being an issue for most people but it definitely is for me.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4014062
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6298507
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11103227
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21353476
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1435181




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  10. I’d be more uncomfortable about knowing that eating animals and their bodily secretions vastly increases the risk of developing most of our common diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, common cancers, type II diabetes etc, due to the cholesterol, saturated fat, hydrogenated fat, heme iron, IGF-1 increasing properties and more.

    Plus, exploiting, enslaving, abusing and murdering animals for no other reason than because it’s tradition and we enjoy their taste is far more “uncomfortable” for the sentient being that doesn’t want to die.




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  11. I thought the following interesting, “Researchers have tried exposing cells from aborted fetal human penises to these kinds of dietary pollutants…” The trafficking and sale of aborted fetal body parts is against federal law. I’m not interested in any studies that participate in such behavior no matter how much it increases my health.




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    1. I hear you Tyrone and am inclined to agree, that I am unwilling to derive benefit from abortion itself. However, it doesn’t say anything about sale or trafficking. It is my (possibly incorrect) understanding that fetal tissue from abortions is sometimes used on a donated basis. Still uncomfortable with that, but such use does not cause, promote, or lead anyone to profit from the abortion itself. Just as accepting a donated organ from a victim of a car crash does not cause, promote, or lead anyone to profit from car crashes.

      Still, I agree with your discomfort.

      That said, I applaud the honestly of saying where the tissue in question came from. It would be easier to just sidestep that info. At least the honestly allows people the opportunity to critically think about it.




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  12. I read a fascinating article in WSJ (05/15/17): “A Farm Grows in the City” which mainly refers to the fact that food (greens) is grown closer to where people live. The greens, in one instance, are grown in trays, stacked 36 feet high in a high tech vertical farm (16 acres of food grow on a floor of 1/8 acre). The question that concerns me and was not touched upon: are hydroponically produced greens grown under LED light as healthful as those grown under natural condition since some toxins could potentially be screened out?




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    1. One of the leading issues with hydroponic based greens appears to be minerals. Much of the minerals contained in organic foods come from the soil. With hydroponics there is no actual soil. And some of the desired minerals aren’t compatible with the liquid water substrate.




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  13. Hello!

    That’s a nice post you have there. However, I was wondering if there are any foods in particular that you would recommend as a way to naturally boost testosterone.




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  14. Excercise is the best way to boost testosterone.
    Go to the gym and move some weights.
    It also fires up your metabolism and helps with HGH (Human Growth Hormone) in addition to bone strength.




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