Decreased testosterone production in men with rheumatoid arthritis is a common finding (Stafford et al 2000), and it is now generally recognized that androgens have the capacity to suppress both the hormonal and cellular immune response and so act as one of the body’s natural anti-inflammatory agents (Cutolo et al 2002). This known anti-inflammatory action of testosterone has led to studying the effect of testosterone therapy in men with rheumatoid disease. Although not all studies have reported positive effects of testosterone treatment (Hall et al 1996), some studies do demonstrate an improvement in both clinical and chemical markers of the immune response (Cutolo et al 1991; Cutolo 2000). This observation would go along with more recent evidence that testosterone or its metabolites protects immunity by preserving the number of regulatory T cells and the activation of CD8+ T cells (Page et al 2006).
Epidemiological studies suggest that many significant clinical findings and important disease states are linked to low testosterone levels. These include osteoporosis (Campion and Maricic 2003), Alzheimer’s disease (Moffat et al 2004), frailty, obesity (Svartberg, von Muhlen, Sundsfjord et al 2004), diabetes (Barrett-Connor 1992), hypercholesterolemia (Haffner et al 1993; Van Pottelbergh et al 2003), hypertension (Phillips et al 1993), cardiac failure (Tappler and Katz 1979; Kontoleon et al 2003) and ischemic heart disease (Barrett-Connor and Khaw 1988). The extent to which testosterone deficiency is involved in the pathogenesis of these conditions, or to which testosterone supplementation could be useful in their treatment is an area of great interest with many unanswered questions.
Estrogen is important in men, but too high of a level has all sorts of negative consequences – ranging from heart attacks to prostate cancer (32 & 33). The balance between testosterone and estrogen (or estradiol) is critical for a man. If the ratio is out and estrogen starts to dominate you run into all sorts of issues – such as breast cell growth, prostate enlargement and of course lower testosterone.
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Dr. Anthony’s Notes: Magnesium is best to take at night as it is relaxing. Supplemental magnesium can cause loose stools at high doses. If you experience loose stools, you'll know to back off your dose. This is a really useful supplement for overall health – not JUST for testosterone. Verdict: this is one of the natural testosterone supplements that work. Best Food Sources: pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard, black beans, cashews, quinoa, quality whole gains like Ezekiel bread How To Take Magnesium: 200-400mg capsule form at night before bed.
The basis for my thinking that T levels could be boosted by cold baths came from a post I wrote a few years ago on the benefits of cold showers. One benefit I found in my research was that they could increase testosterone levels. I mentioned a 1993 study done by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England that found increased T levels after taking a cold shower. Here’s the thing. I can’t find a link to the original source and I can’t find any other studies that support this claim! So without supporting research, I’m unsure of the effects of cold showers on testosterone.
As you cut these dietary troublemakers from your meals, you need to replace them with healthy substitutes like vegetables and healthy fats (including natural saturated fats!). Your body prefers the carbohydrates in micronutrient-dense vegetables rather than grains and sugars because it slows the conversion to simple sugars like glucose, and decreases your insulin level. When you cut grains and sugar from your meals, you typically will need to radically increase the amount of vegetables you eat, as well as make sure you are also consuming protein and healthy fats regularly.
That said, magnesium is one of a few ingredients demonstrated to impact testosterone levels. Researchers at Italy’s University of Palermo found that magnesium improved participants’ anabolic hormone status — including their testosterone levels. In a follow-up study, they confirm that even adjusting for age differences in their participant group, “magnesium was positively associated with total testosterone.” They propose that magnesium supplementation might help improve muscle performance in aging men — a group particularly vulnerable to declining/low testosterone levels. Outside of Italy, researchers at Turkey’s Selçuk University found that magnesium supplementation increased testosterone levels for both athletes and more sedentary men alike.
The same study showed that drinking did, however, lower semen count and quality. And I want to remind you – this is an article on improving testosterone levels, not general health as there are a lot of studies that show drinking leads to an assortment of health issues. This acute spike in Testosterone could be due to the effect alcohol has on libido, and also the energy influx in the liver?
The changes in average serum testosterone levels with aging mean that the proportion of men fulfilling a biochemically defined diagnosis of hypogonadism increases with aging. Twenty percent of men aged over 60 have total testosterone levels below the normal range and the figure rises to 50% in those aged over 80. The figures concerning free testosterone are even higher as would be expected in view of the concurrent decrease in SHBG levels (Harman et al 2001).
Dr. Darryn Willoughby, a professor of health, human performance and recreation and the director of the Exercise and Biochemical Nutrition Laboratory at Baylor University, told us that even in studies where there was an increase in testosterone, it was only around 15–20 percent. “In men with clinically normal testosterone levels, this modest increase will most likely not be anabolic enough to improve exercise performance,” he says. So if you have normal testosterone levels, and are simply trying to get an extra edge in gaining muscle, losing weight, or some extra time in the bedroom — you might see some results from taking a testosterone booster. But really, these will be most useful for men with low testosterone trying to get back to a healthy testosterone range.
Studies of the effects on cognition of testosterone treatment in non-cognitively impaired eugonadal and hypogonadal ageing males have shown varying results, with some showing beneficial effects on spatial cognition (Janowsky et al 1994; Cherrier et al 2001), verbal memory (Cherrier et al 2001) and working memory (Janowsky et al 2000), and others showing no effects (Sih et al 1997; Kenny et al 2002). Other trials have examined the effects of testosterone treatment in older men with Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive decline. Results have been promising, with two studies showing beneficial effects of testosterone treatment on spatial and verbal memory (Cherrier et al 2005b) and cognitive assessments including visual-spatial memory (Tan and Pu 2003), and a recent randomized controlled trial comparing placebo versus testosterone versus testosterone and an aromatase inhibitor suggesting that testosterone treatment improves spatial memory directly and verbal memory after conversion to estrogen (Cherrier et al 2005a). Not all studies have shown positive results (Kenny et al 2004; Lu et al 2005), and variations could be due to the different measures of cognitive abilities that were used and the cognitive state of men at baseline. The data from clinical trials offers evidence that testosterone may be beneficial for certain elements of cognitive function in the aging male with or without cognitive decline. Larger studies are needed to confirm and clarify these effects.
It may also become a treatment for anemia, bone density and strength problems. In a 2017 study published in the journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), testosterone treatments corrected anemia in older men with low testosterone levels better than a placebo. Another 2017 study published in JAMA found that older men with low testosterone had increased bone strength and density after treatment when compared with a placebo.
A notable study out of Wayne State University in Indiana found that older men who had a mild zinc deficiency significantly increased their testosterone from 8.3 to 16.0 nmol/L—a 93 percent increase—following six months of zinc supplementation. Researchers of the study concluded that zinc may play an important role in modulating serum testosterone levels in normal healthy men.6
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These researchers took saliva samples from recreational women athletes before and after playing 10 minutes of flag football. The data showed that this short, intense burst of competitive sport triggered the immediate release of testosterone. Interestingly, the subjects' mental state also contributed to the data. Self-rated performance scores were directly related to testosterone levels.
I am also suspect of the fact that men 100 years ago had testosterone levels of 800-2000 ng/dL. The truth is that there are men today that are stronger and more muscular than the men from 100 years ago. Sure the “average man” of today is less than the “average man” of prior generations, but this is because we sit around in offices all day, and then come home to sit on the couch and watch tv…little to no activity.
Men who watch a sexually explicit movie have an average increase of 35% in testosterone, peaking at 60–90 minutes after the end of the film, but no increase is seen in men who watch sexually neutral films. Men who watch sexually explicit films also report increased motivation, competitiveness, and decreased exhaustion. A link has also been found between relaxation following sexual arousal and testosterone levels.
With the exception of increasing my fat and cholesterol intake, my diet wasn’t that unconventional. I didn’t follow a strictly low-carb or Paleo diet because recent research has suggested that a diet high in protein and low in carbs actually causes T levels to decrease. With that said, I was judicious with the carbs. I tried to get most of my carbs from veggies and fruit, but I didn’t freak out if my wife made us spaghetti for dinner.
Does the diminution that age brings with it in both total and bioavailable T have any clinical significance? This question leads us to the theme of this paper, “The Many Faces of Testosterone”. If testosterone were simply a “sex hormone” involved only with sexual desire and arousal we might tend to dismiss testosterone treatment in the aging man as merely a “life-style” therapy without any substantive basis for broad physiological necessity. The fact is, however, that the sexual attributes of testosterone are the least of its physiological necessities and that testosterone has a broad spectrum of demonstrated physiological functions as well as a wide variety of physiological and pathophysiological associations about which we are just learning.
Stored food in glassware and never, ever, ever heated food in plastic containers. Most modern plastics contain phthalates. Phthalates are what give plastic their flexibility, durability, and longevity. But they also screw with hormones by imitating estrogen. Because I didn’t want any of those T-draining molecules in my food, I kept all my food in glassware. I also made sure to never heat food in plastic containers, as heat increases the transfer of phthalates into food.
That testosterone decreases with age has been clearly established by many studies over many years in several different populations of men (Harman et al 2001; Feldman et al 2002; Araujo et al 2004; Kaufman and Vermeulen 2005). Of even greater significance is the steeper fall of the most biologically active fraction of total testosterone, non-sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG)- bound testosterone, or bioavailable testosterone (bio-T). The classical, but not the only approach to measuring bio-T, is to precipitate out SHBG (and hence the testosterone which is strongly bound to it as well) and measure the remainder as total testosterone (Tremblay 2003). Vermeulen et al (1999) have devised a less tedious and less expensive method of measuring a surrogate for bio-T, namely calculated bio-T, inserting total T, albumin, SHBG and a constant into a mathematical formulation. There is a strong correlation between actual bio-T and calculated bio-T (Emadi-Konjin et al 2003).
Most studies support a link between adult criminality and testosterone, although the relationship is modest if examined separately for each sex. Nearly all studies of juvenile delinquency and testosterone are not significant. Most studies have also found testosterone to be associated with behaviors or personality traits linked with criminality such as antisocial behavior and alcoholism. Many studies have also been done on the relationship between more general aggressive behavior/feelings and testosterone. About half the studies have found a relationship and about half no relationship.
Lets touch on these individually. Gluten has been shown to increase prolactin levels in male mice (48 & 49). Increased prolactin levels in males leads to all sorts of horrible things: Man Boobs (50), High inflammation (51), and most importantly, higher prolactin levels have been shown to be testosterone lowering and lead to shrinking of the testicle (52).
Consume organic dairy products, like high-quality cheeses and whey protein, to boost your branch chain amino acids (BCAA). According to research, BCAAs were found to raise testosterone levels, particularly when taken with strength training.12 While there are supplements that provide BCAAs, I believe that leucine, found in dairy products, carries the highest concentrations of this beneficial amino acid.
One of the most important nutrients that can help boost testosterone levels is vitamin D3. In 2011, the results of a study published in the journal Hormone and Metabolic Research announced that vitamin D supplementation boosts testosterone naturally in overweight men by up to 30 percent. (12) This is pretty exciting because research has shown that vitamin D3 is also linked to helping to prevent and treat cancer! (13)
Vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic in the US, and is profoundly affecting men’s health. The cholesterol-derived steroid hormone vitamin D is crucial for men’s health. It plays a role in the development of the sperm cell nucleus, and helps maintain semen quality and sperm count. Vitamin D can also increase your testosterone level, helping improve your libido. Have your vitamin D levels tested using a 25(OH)D or a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. The optimal level of vitamin D is around 50 to 70 ng/ml for adults. There are three effective sources of vitamin D:
Studies also show a consistent negative correlation of testosterone with blood pressure (Barrett-Connor and Khaw 1988; Khaw and Barrett-Connor 1988; Svartberg, von Muhlen, Schirmer et al 2004). Data specific to the ageing male population suggests that this relationship is particularly powerful for systolic hypertension (Fogari et al 2005). Interventional trials have not found a significant effect of testosterone replacement on blood pressure (Kapoor et al 2006).
Individuals with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk for developing coronary artery disease and diabetes mellitus. Predicting who might develop the metabolic syndrome would allow preventive measures to be taken in addition to weight control and other lifestyle modifications such as cessation of smoking and increased exercise. It is known that with decreasing testosterone availability in aging males there is an increase in fat mass and decrease in lean body mass (van den Beld et al 2000), there are disorders of insulin and glucose metabolism (Haffner et al 1996) and dyslipidemia (Tsai et al 2004). Kupelian and colleagues (2006) in analyzing data from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study demonstrated that men with low levels of testosterone, sex hormone-binding globulin, or clinical androgen deficiency, especially men with a BMI of greater than 25, were at increased risk of developing the metabolic syndrome and hence, diabetes mellitus and/or coronary artery disease.
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Currently available testosterone preparations in common use include intramuscular injections, subcutaneous pellets, buccal tablets, transdermal gels and patches (see Table 2). Oral testosterone is not widely used. Unmodified testosterone taken orally is largely subject to first-pass metabolism by the liver. Oral doses 100 fold greater than physiological testosterone production can be given to achieve adequate serum levels. Methyl testosterone esters have been associated with hepatotoxicity. There has been some use of testosterone undecanoate, which is an esterified derivative of testosterone that is absorbed via the lymphatic system and bypasses the liver. Unfortunately, it produces unpredictable testosterone levels and increases testosterone levels for only a short period after each oral dose (Schurmeyer et al 1983).
The aim of treatment for hypogonadism is to normalize serum testosterone levels and abolish symptoms or pathological states that are due to low testosterone levels. The exact target testosterone level is a matter of debate, but current recommendations advocate levels in the mid-lower normal adult range (Nieschlag et al 2005). Truly physiological testosterone replacement would require replication of the diurnal rhythm of serum testosterone levels, but there is no current evidence that this is beneficial (Nieschlag et al 2005).
Now that we know chronic insulin spikes lead to lower Testosterone production, I hope I haven’t sent you running into the low carb camp! There are a few studies out there showing that long term low carb or ketogenic dieting leads to higher cortisol levels (especially with subjects who are training), and decreased testosterone levels (28 & 29). I have used low carb diets in the past with successful results (winning a national bodybuilding title), however the key is to use cyclical carb re-feeds. If you’re going to go on a low carb diet for whatever reason, be sure to work in a large carb reefed once a week.
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Before assessing the evidence of testosterone’s action in the aging male it is important to note certain methodological considerations which are common to the interpretation of any clinical trial of testosterone replacement. Many interventional trials of the effects of testosterone on human health and disease have been conducted. There is considerable heterogenicity in terms of study design and these differences have a potential to significantly affect the results seen in various studies. Gonadal status at baseline and the testosterone level produced by testosterone treatment in the study are of particular importance because the effects of altering testosterone from subphysiological to physiological levels may be different from those of altering physiological levels to supraphysiological. Another important factor is the length of treatment. Randomised controlled trials of testosterone have ranged from one to thirty-six months in duration (Isidori et al 2005) although some uncontrolled studies have lasted up to 42 months. Many effects of testosterone are thought to fully develop in the first few months of treatment but effects on bone, for example, have been shown to continue over two years or more (Snyder et al 2000; Wang, Cunningham et al 2004).
The hypogonadal-obesity-adipocytokine cycle hypothesis. Adipose tissue contains the enzyme aromatase which metabolises testosterone to oestrogen. This results in reduced testosterone levels, which increase the action of lipoprotein lipase and increase fat mass, thus increasing aromatisation of testosterone and completing the cycle. Visceral fat also promotes lower testosterone levels by reducing pituitary LH pulse amplitude via leptin and/or other factors. In vitro studies have shown that leptin also inhibits testosterone production directly at the testes. Visceral adiposity could also provide the link between testosterone and insulin resistance (Jones 2007).