LIKE FAT LIKE TESTOSTERONE
As testosterone is the most important male sex hormone, affecting positively the development of muscles, libido and quality of life in men, the search continues for different methods conducive to the establishment of its high level in the body. In addition to the synthesis of ever new forms or analogues of this compound, serving to replenish it, another direction in research procedure aims at identifying herbs and food produce, as well as their active substances, stimulating the synthesis and elevating the levels of testosterone. Researchers have not omitted fats here – the universal foodstuff present on our table. And what picture emerges from these investigations (?) – Let’s see...
Fats and testosterone.
For over two decades, the view on the share of fat in the diets of pro-testosterone quality has been established based on one study from the early 1990s. It showed that administration of a high dose of milk fat led to a nearly 50% drop in testosterone levels in all volunteers. And although it was only a short-term observation, now there persists in the literature a belief that animal fat lowers the testosterone level. Thus, for a long time, it has been recommended to limit the consumption of animal fat in favour of vegetable one in order to maintain high libido and muscle growth rate. It was only later that studies have re-examined these erroneous views...
It has been found that diet with high content of animal fats, rich in saturated fatty acids and cholesterol, helps to maintain high testosterone levels. Conversely, a diet with predominating vegetable fats, cholesterol-free and rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, leads to low levels of this hormone. In addition, a significant share of fibre in the diet has been shown to contribute to a decrease in testosterone levels as well – a finding the researchers have associated with the ability of this compound to block cholesterol absorption. This hypothesis is confirmed by recent observations on anti-cholesterol drugs the use of which leads to a significant drop in testosterone levels.
One of the latest studies on this topic (dated 2008) proved that the highest increase in the testosterone level occurred as a result of consumption of a mixture of fats, composed of monounsaturated fatty acids and saturated fats at a ratio of 2:1.
All these observations seem to indicate cholesterol and fatty acids, saturated and monounsaturated, as the testosterone activators, and conversely – polyunsaturated fats as the blockers of this hormone synthesis. It seems that the rule does not apply to polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, as one of the earlier studies has shown their positive impact on the synthesis of testosterone. It is logical insofar as these compounds form the richest fraction of fatty acids stored in testicular cells (and testicles are the testosterone-producing glands).
Cholesterol and others.
Cholesterol is an essential intermediate for the synthesis of testosterone. It is a characteristic constituent of animal fats. Today we know that the reduction of its consumption, as well as inhibition of its absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, production in the body or penetration into the cell nuclei, leads to a decrease in testosterone levels. Previously, it was believed inhibiting the cholesterol absorption is of no importance for the synthesis of steroid hormones, since the body is able to produce its appropriate quantities. However, it was found that cells of the testicles more easily use in the synthesis of testosterone the cholesterol taken up by the body from food, mainly contained in the LDL fraction (the so-called “bad cholesterol”) than the self-produced – either by themselves or by cells of other tissues.
Despite the fact that vegetable fats contain cholesterol counterparts – phytosterols – which also constitute a valuable intermediate for the synthesis of testosterone, their quantity in refined oil (consumed on a daily basis and used in research) is negligible. And although higher doses of phytosterols have a positive impact on the production of testosterone, at low doses the effect can be downright counterproductive. All this because phytosterols form stable, hard absorbed complexes with cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract, and these are predominantly excreted from the body.
Different acids – different mechanisms.
The influence of different groups of fatty acids on the mechanisms of testosterone production – although currently intensively studied – remains to be elucidated...
It should be remembered that a key step in the process of this hormone synthesis is the transport of cholesterol. To maintain high efficiency, cholesterol must be readily transferred not only into the cell nuclei but also inside of the mitochondria – cellular organelles in which the critical stages of testosterone synthesis take place.
An important channel for transporting cholesterol is the so-called peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR), which – by opening up – allows the entry of cholesterol into the mitochondria. And it is at this stage that fatty acids join in the regulation of the whole process...
Certain tissue hormones, called prostanoids, are formed by means of a small modification of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Prostanoids have specific receptors: PPAR-alpha, PPAR-beta (also called PPAR-delta interchangeably) and PPAR-gamma. The binding of tissue hormone with PPAR converts the receptor into the so-called transcription factor acting on genes, and thus stimulating or inhibiting the production of certain proteins. However, as prostanoids are only slightly different from typical fatty acids, PPARs also bind to the latter, although so initiated biological effects tend to be generally much weaker. As it transpires, the activation of PPAR-alpha in testicular cells leads to the inhibition of PBR production and, consequently, to impaired uptake of cholesterol by the mitochondria and reduction in testosterone synthesis. Apart from prostanoids, PPAR-alpha readily bind saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. This may explain the results of the study mentioned above in which the administration of a single high dose of milk fat, containing mostly saturated fatty acids, led to a temporary drop in testosterone levels. However, long-term diet with predominating saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids can have the opposite effect and clearly different from the long-term intake of predominantly polyunsaturated fatty acids... Saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids – with poor activity by themselves – bind PPAR-alpha, by which they block the binding of potent prostanoids – derivatives of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The cell nuclei also contain PPAR-beta/delta, although they lack PPAR-gamma. The beta receptors seem to counteract the alpha ones, and – as seems to be indicated by the current state of knowledge – they stimulate the synthesis of key proteins in the testes, including most likely the protein transporting cholesterol. Since, as is currently believed, potent activators of PPAR-beta include omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, their potential stimulating effect on the production of testosterone finds an excellent explanation here. At the same time, it should be noted that prostanoids that are most active metabolically are formed from omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, while omega-3 acids block their production and are transformed into less active prostanoids, inhibiting the access of omega-6 to PPARs, including PPAR-alpha.
On the other hand, PPAR-gamma are strongly present in the cells of the pituitary gland, where their activation leads to the inhibition of synthesis and release of luteinizing hormone (LH) – a gonadotropin transported to the testes and stimulating the synthesis of testosterone. And since the strongest activators of these receptors are the omega-6 fatty acids and their derivatives, a diet with a predominant share of vegetable fats, including mostly these acids, may lead to lower testosterone levels.
Weed – not just cannabis.
An important part in regulating the synthesis of testosterone is played by the so-called cannabinoid receptors – their activation leads to a decrease in this hormone levels. Since they are extremely active in the hypothalamus and also present in the testes, it is believed they work on these two levels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Their inducers are cannabinoids – cannabis toxins – as well as tissue hormones, called endocannabinoids. It should be emphasised at this point that the strongest endocannabinoids are derivatives of omega-6 fatty acids, which explains very well why a diet rich in the latter can lead to a decrease in testosterone levels. On the other hand, saturated, monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids are involved in the synthesis of endocannabinoids with a significantly lower activity (or even no activity at all), which may block the access of potent omega 6 derivatives to their receptors and reduce the negative impact they have on testosterone production. At the same time, fatty acids from other groups restrict the production of strong endocannabinoids, omega-6 fatty acid derivatives
Some short-chain saturated fatty acids, such as isovaleric or hydroxyl methylbutyrate (HMB), are excellent intermediates in testosterone synthesis. However there are present in small quantities in food, so it is difficult to judge whether they are of any significance in the context of this discussion.
Still, there has to be some relevance here, since one of the short-chain fatty acids – valeric – is an extremely potent aphrodisiac... for cats. But surely it is something completely different... Mixtures of volatile short-chain fatty acids, composed of a few (2-5) carbon atoms, are called copulins and serve as pheromones in mammals. Copulins are produced and secreted by females, and when inhaled by males they cause a large (150%) increase in testosterone levels. This “love chemistry” works in humans as well, obviously.
On the other hand, of interest is the issue of saturated lauric acid, constituting up to 65% of the fat fraction of tropical palm trees, such as palmetto, coconut or date ones. These fruit quite strongly stimulate the production of testosterone, as claimed in the folk tradition (the fame of effective aphrodisiacs) and which has been scientifically proven, at least for palmetto. Although its mechanism of action has not been elucidated, it is known that lauric acid is involved in blocking the binding of DHT (a derivative of testosterone) with androgen receptor (cellular protein responsible for the activity of male sex hormones) and in inhibiting the activity of prolactin (pituitary hormone). In this manner, it can reduce the effect of negative feedback, where testosterone and its derivatives act on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland via the androgen receptors and inhibit the release of gonadotropin LH – a hormone that stimulates the testes to produce testosterone. It can also abolish the anti gonadotropin activity of prolactin, which also inhibits the release of gonadotropin, and thus increase the secretion of this hormone by the pituitary gland and the severity of its impact on the testes.
It should be noted that in the above-cited study the pro-testosterone acid composition of monounsaturated and saturated was achieved through mixing olive oil with coconut butter...
Best fat – highest testosterone.
Compiling all the available data, we come to the conclusion that fat – in a strongly pro-testosterone diet – must constitute approx. 30% of its calorific value, with the rest accounted for by carbohydrates and protein. However, the percentage of individual fatty acids in this volume of fat should range as follows:
60% – monounsaturated,
30% – saturated,
7% – polyunsaturated omega-6,
3% – polyunsaturated omega-3
Although monounsaturated fatty acids are quite widely present in oil plants, only a few oils and snacks derived from them are useful in the pro-testosterone diet. Solely those fat products can be of use, which – with a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids – are a poor source of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, detrimental to testosterone. And, unfortunately, there is a very limited amount of them... After a rigorous selection, all that remains are olives, avocado, hazelnuts macadamia nuts, as well as oils pressed from all these delicacies.
Saturated acids can obviously be found in greasy preparations of meat, full fat dairy products and eggs, as well as in plant-origin foodstuff – the coconuts. Thus, for high testosterone, it is advisable to use in the kitchen small amounts of lard, butter and oil or coconut milk, especially since – as we remember – coconut has always enjoyed a reputation of a very effective aphrodisiac, and its fat is in 50% the valuable lauric acid.
The omega-6 fatty acids are not a problem, since such quantities are easily obtained from the sources of monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids. And although – bearing testosterone in mind – omega-6 are best omitted, it is definitely not advisable, since these acids (in small amounts) are absolutely necessary for life and even called either essential fatty acids (EFA) or vitamin F.
As a source of omega-3 fatty acids, I would recommend a dietary supplement rather than anything else. Mainly because fish – their main source – are full of xenoestrogens (toxins with the activity of female sex hormones), which inhibit both testosterone production and its activity in target tissues.
The popular linseed oil is not the best solution here... Although it contains up to 53% of omega-3 fatty acids, at the same time it has a 15% content of omega-6. But this is also only a theory, because the majority of such products available on the market are produced from the varieties of flax in which omega-6 clearly predominate over omega-3 fatty acids.
If we set our daily energy needs at 3,000 calories (the value for an average male practicing sports recreationally), our requirement can be covered with 5 capsules of Omega 3 Gold.