The short answer is no, foods do not directly reduce your testosterone levels. However, a poor diet can negatively affect your health and poor health can lead to lower testosterone levels.
There are however a number of key food groups that can lead to poor health if they are not consumed in moderation and this has led to the myth that certain foods kill your testosterone.
We are joined by Dr. Robert Mordkin, Chief Urologist and U.S. Medical Director for LetsGetChecked to talk you through what’s true and false when it comes to testosterone, what is known to kill testosterone vs. what actually does, how to test your testosterone and ways you can naturally boost your levels.
These foods might indirectly lead to lower testosterone levels:
- Refined carbohydrates & sugars
- Vegetable oil
- Low quality meat/processed foods
- Soy products
Foods that kill testosterone: Do they actually exist?
Often referred to as ‘low-T’, low testosterone levels are more often than not caused by a number of factors - particularly age. In fact, it’s estimated that testosterone levels tend to decrease by about 1% from the age of 40 in men. These low levels can cause a number of symptoms such as a reduction in sex drive and significant loss of muscle mass.
With the above in mind, it’s important to know more about what other factors can affect testosterone levels in men - particularly daily diet. Let's set the record straight on whether or not foods actually have the ability to ‘kill’ testosterone.
#1. Refined carbohydrates and sugars
White bread, pasta, rice along with pastries and cakes are known as refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates are those that are quickly digested by the body leading to a quick release of sugar and a spike in insulin.
Refined carbohydrates and/or sugars may cause testosterone decline, but this is connected to potential weight gain as opposed to the immediate effect of consuming refined carbohydrates.
Dr. Mordkin says:
"Refined carbs and sugars often lead to poor weight control. Obesity is the number one culprit in leading to low testosterone. Many weight management physicians and cardiologists espouse keto low carb diets for rapid and maintained weight loss and a positive side effect will typically be a rebound in testosterone levels."
#2. Vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is said to affect testosterone levels, but similarly to refined carbohydrates, this decline is said to be connected to subsequent weight gain.
Vegetable oil is olives, rapeseed, palm, peanut or soybeans that are liquid at room temperature.
In one study, men were given a questionnaire on their dietary intake. 69 men aged between 43 and 88 were accessed. It was shown that there was a relationship between the consumption of polyunsaturated fats, estradiol and testosterone.
This study has a low sample group, and the data collected is of a qualitative nature.
A high fat diet may induce weight gain and high cholesterol which can impact testosterone levels but there are no definitive findings that highlight a connection between vegetable oil and low testosterone.
#3. Low quality meat/processed foods
Low quality meat that is believed to have been sprayed with hormone treatments and antibiotics for preservation purposes is said to trigger hormonal imbalances, though large scale findings are inconclusive.
Processed meats and ready meals are said to be equally damaging to your hormones as they are high in sodium, calories, sugar and, trans-fats, which offer a similar explanation as vegetable oil; ultimately potentially resulting in low testosterone levels.
One study suggests that men who consume a high level of processed or low quality meats had a 15% lower volume of testosterone as well as a 37% decrease in sperm count.
See also: Can you Promote Hormone Balance?
#4. Soy products
Soy products are said to affect testosterone, and possibly even reduce testosterone levels. However, studies have only been carried out on animals so the findings should be taken with a pinch of salt. Soy products such as soy milk and yogurts, soya meat replacement products, tofu, miso soup and edamame are high in phytoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring sources of estrogen found in certain food products. Eating lots of soy products on a regular basis can lead to estrogen dominance in men and women.
In men, eating products that are high in phytoestrogens is said to cause a decline in testosterone levels. While deeper study is required with human samples, a study found that rats who consumed phytoestrogens experienced decreased testosterone levels.
Dr. Mordkin says:
"A large proportion of studies use animals with low sample number groups, which indicates that further study is required. Having some soy milk in your morning coffee is not an issue, however, until there is further investigation into dairy replacements, moderation is key."
Alcohol consumption is linked to a myriad of negative health implications. Some studies claim that alcohol can wreak havoc on testosterone production, however alcohol may affect all aspects of your health, not just testosterone. When we consume alcohol, it is absorbed by the lining of the stomach and into the bloodstream.
The liver metabolizes 90% of the alcohol you drink. Biologically inactive protein is bound to a protein called albumin which is produced in the liver. This logic is used as a claim that alcohol can cause a decline in testosterone production.
While drinking alcohol frequently isn’t beneficial for overall health, it is not the sole cause of declining testosterone.
Dr. Mordkin says:
"This is factually correct. In addition, other recreational practices such as smoking marijuana and taking opioids, even in moderate consumption have also been demonstrated to depress testosterone production."
See also: Does Low Testostosterone Equal Low Mood?
Checking your own testosterone levels at home
Low testosterone levels can result in a number of unfavourable symptoms in men, such as low sex drive and possible loss of muscle mass. This is what makes it so important to stay in the know when it comes to your testosterone levels!
Testosterone levels are commonly measured by examining the blood for levels of testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). The free androgen index (FAI) is used to determine the volume of bio-available testosterone in the blood. This is carried out by differentiating between bio-available testosterone and SHBG.
SHBG is a glycoprotein that binds itself to testosterone and transports inactive testosterone molecules around the body.
LetsGetChecked offer a number of male hormone tests, ranging from simply measuring your testosterone levels to the Male Hormone Advanced Test which includes hormones prolactin and oestradiol, that are typically associated with women to attain a full comprehensive view of your hormonal health.
Testosterone levels can be examined by a small blood sample, with online results available within a few days. You should consider taking a Male Hormone Advanced Test if you are training competitively, you are undergoing cancer treatment, you suffer from diabetes type 1 or 2, you are overweight, have a family history or suffer from kidney or liver damage.
Dr. Mordkin says:
“If testing shows low levels of testosterone, you should take steps to improve your overall health, followed by retesting in a few months to monitor for improvements. If low levels persist, more thorough evaluation of the hormonal axis should be considered under the guidance of an endocrinologist.”
Testosterone levels may vary on an on-going basis depending on environmental or lifestyle changes. If you are experiencing low levels of testosterone, it is recommended that you test your levels every three months to monitor, track and ultimately improve your current levels.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by U.S. Medical Director Dr. Robert Mordkin