Testosterone levels are plummeting. Studies have shown the average man’s testosterone in today’s society is nearly 25% lower than in the 1980’s (18, 19). Without adequate testosterone, men become infertile, impotent, docile and weak. In fact, men with low testosterone are 52.4% more likely to be obese; 50% more likely develop diabetes; 42.4% more likely to have high blood pressure and 40.4% more likely to have high cholesterol (16). Why is the average man’s testosterone lower than our ancestors and what can be done about it?
BPA may be the biggest culprit to the declining levels of testosterone. BPA is Bisphenol-A, a synthetic chemical often found in various plastic containers that leaches out as it is heated. When workers were exposed to BPA, it resulted in lower levels of testosterone and androstendione , a precursor to both testosterone and estrogen (1).
Trying to have kids? A recent study showed that 89% of men attending fertility clinics had BPA in their urine (2). Subjects exposed to BPA not only had lower levels of testosterone, they also had a lower TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Your thyroid helps regulate your metabolism, an under or overactive thyroid can lead to a hoist of medical problems. The bottom line is, you should avoid drinking from plastic bottles and use glass or stainless steel whenever possible.
Whatever you do, don’t eat soy. According to a 2008 Harvard study, sperm counts in male infertility clinic patients were found to be lower by 41 million/ml in those who included soy foods in their diets compared to those who had a soy-free diet (3). The study also found that the combination of being overweight compounds the detrimental effects of soy foods, driving sperm counts even lower (3).
Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to never drink alcohol again. I’m just warning you about hops, one of the ingredients used to make beer. The hops in beer are so estrogenic; they are currently being studied as a treatment for hot flashes in menopausal women! (4).
If you want to optimize your testosterone levels, it’s best to completely avoid alcohol. Research has shown that even 2 drinks/day (from any alcohol beverage) can lower your testosterone levels (5). My advice would be to avoid alcohol during the week and sip on vodka on the weekends. A couple vodka and sodas with lime on the weekend shouldn’t crush your testosterone.
Sleep deprivation is a very common problem in the 21st century due to the added pressures in society. Sleep deprivation, whether from cramming for exams, meeting work deadlines, anxiety-related insomnia or any other of a myriad of causes, constitutes a form of stress that squelches testosterone levels by raising cortisol levels. For middle-aged and older men, who already secrete less testosterone overnight than younger men, getting less sleep correlates to lower morning testosterone levels (6).
For young men, losing sleep in the first half of the night doesn’t have as much impact on testosterone levels as waking up early or losing sleep during the second half of the night (7).
There are many reasons to eliminate stress and even the people who may be stressors in your life. Stress, by inducing the fight-or-flight stress response, makes men less competitive, less assertive and also, as it turns out, less fertile (8). Cortisol, the stress hormone produced by adrenal glands, blocks the effects of testosterone which suppresses libido, healthy competitive drive and aggression. Instead, the mind and body shifts into crisis mode, preparing your body to turn and run or fight against an attacker. As an example of the suppressive effects of cortisol on testosterone, a study found that men with high testosterone and low cortisol were more likely to seek a rematch after losing in a competition than men with high cortisol and low testosterone levels (8)
Researchers at Berkeley found that stress acts in the brain to decrease testosterone by increasing levels of a hormone that inhibits testosterone production (9). The hormone, known as gonadotropin-inhibiting hormone, is produced by the pituitary gland. This hormone acts as an orchestra conductor that controls the activity of the entire endocrine system. If your deadbeat friend harasses you about not calling back, tell him you’re just trying to increase your testosterone.
If you are among the almost one-in-three Americans battling obesity, you can add low testosterone levels to the list of obesity-related health complications added to heart disease, diabetes and a host of other problems. In a study of obese men with underactive testicular function, up to 40 percent had lower-than-average testosterone levels (10). Having diabetes also lowers testosterone levels and is nearly equivalent in effect to carrying around an extra 20 pounds (10). If you are a young man in the prime of your reproductive years and saddled with obesity and diabetes, you can expect a greater than 50 percent chance of having low testosterone levels (10).
Adipose tissue (fat tissue) contains an enzyme called aromatase that converts testosterone into estrogen (17). If you want healthy testosterone levels, drop the body fat.
Your body uses certain vitamins and minerals to produce testosterone; an important one being zinc (11). Shellfish, beef and pork are your best sources of this mineral, followed by dark meat poultry (12). Antioxidant vitamins E and C help maintain zinc status and protect against loss from exposure to environmental toxins (13).
The low fat diet fad of the 90’s has finally lost much of its popularity. Men who eat a low fat diet have low testosterone! (14). While sparing details regarding which fats are healthy; my daily fat intake mostly consists of the following sources: grass-fed butter, medium chain triglyceride oil, fish oil, krill oil, coconut oil, grass-fed beef, free-run eggs, and almond butter.
There is one benefit to having wandering eyes. Research studies performed with men have shown that staring at attractive women increases your testosterone (15). When men attended a gentleman’s club, their testosterone increased by 36% (15). While I’m not advocating attending a gentleman’s club or participating in any inappropriate behavior, thinking about sex is a healthy male behavior and should be guilt-free.
There are many reasons why you may have low testosterone. Fortunately, by following the steps listed below, you may increase your chances of optimizing your testosterone levels naturally.
If you have any other tips on how to raise testosterone, please share them. You can also listen to my most recent podcast (The Outlaws of Health) which I co-host on testosterone optimization: Episode 38: Testosterone Optimization
Mike Hart is a London, Ontario-based physician, specializing in post traumatic stress. Dr. Hart works with veterans and others to help them overcome PTSD. Mike has one central theme: "Create the Life You Deserve". Shunning the typical paths of over-medication and reactive, traditional treatments, he focuses patients on education, lifestyle design and heightened health awareness. A supporter of medicinal marijuana, Mike was the first physician in London, Ontario to open a marijuana medicinal facility. He believes that medical marijuana is an effective treatment plan with an excellent safety profile, which he has successfully utilized to alleviate chronic pain, migraines, mental health disorders, epilepsy and other medical conditions for his patients.