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The Cholesterol and Testosterone Relationship

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Part of the journey to achieving a better body is maximizing nutrients through the foods that you eat – a supplement should support the nutrients you obtain through your diet, not replace them.

Testosterone is the dominant male hormone that provides us with our masculine traits – muscle mass, strength, libido and health. But how does cholesterol affect our T levels?

In this article we’ll take a look at cholesterol – analyzing why it is important for boosting your testosterone levels, as well as which foods to choose to support your goals.

In this article you will learn:

  • What is cholesterol?
  • The cholesterol and testosterone link
  • Cholesterol foods that boost testosterone

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol (CHOL) is a lipid – a fatty substance that forms part of every cell’s outer membrane. It is made by the liver but also obtained through the foods that we eat.

As lipids are made from fat they cannot travel well within blood unless they are emulsified – remember that blood is mostly water, and oil and water don’t mix well. In order for it to travel in the bloodstream it is packaged up within proteins – this combination of Protein and fat is referred to as a lipoprotein.

There are 5 main types of lipoproteins but the two you’ll need to know about here are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL) – both of these help transport CHOL in the blood.

HDLs help to take lipids back to the liver, where it can be passed out of the body as waste. LDLs take it to cells that need it, but if cells are full they can collect on the walls of the arteries.

HDL is often referred to as ‘good’ and LDL as ‘bad’ cholesterol due to the roles that they play. However, regardless of whether the lipoprotein is high or low density, the CHOL component remains the same. Both are important for normal, healthy functioning cells – therefore it is misleading to label them in such a way.

CHOL is a precursor for the synthesis of many compounds. These include vitamin D as well as the hormones of the adrenal glands, your sex hormones, and of course testosterone.


The cholesterol and testosterone link

Testosterone and cholesterol are both classed as steroids because they share a similar ‘steroid ring’ chemical structure – as do all other steroid hormones. CHOL is the ‘parent compound’ of all steroid hormones, including T, as it is needed to form all steroid hormones. This makes it a sterol

In order to convert into testosterone, it – once synthesized in the liver, is converted into pregnenolone by an enzyme called Cytochrome P450. From there it converts into other hormones such as androstenedione, eventually ending up as testosterone.

The lipid is an auto-regulatory – what this means is that if your cells are running low, your liver will make more. However, some cells need an extra supply so without available CHOL, we cannot synthesize enough pregnenolone, testosterone, or any other steroid hormone for that matter.

Without enough T your body cannot function optimally – you’ll lose strength and muscle mass, your libido will plummet and you’re long-term health risks such as weak bones and cardiovascular risk will increase. 

A study in Arteriosclerosis and thrombosis [1] for example has identified a positive correlation between HDLs and T levels in men, and these results have been echoed in other studies too [2]. Likewise, a large study of 295 men found that total testosterone concentrations had a persistent, positive association with HDLs, whilst at the same time having little relationship to body mass – this shows that a high-fat diet doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll pack on body fat [3].

Furthermore, low fat diets have been found to decrease T levels. A study by Wang et al [4] found that by asking men to eat a low fat, high fiber diet for 8 weeks, T levels plummeted by 12%.

As you can see – higher fat diets are essential for maintaining and optimizing your T levels. In other words, you need to get enough in your diet.


Cholesterol foods that boost testosterone

When it comes to dietary cholesterol it’s all down to the type of fats you eat. Other than minuscule amounts found in oils and plants, you’ll pretty much get all of your needs from animal products – the best CHOL-containing foods are typically high in saturated fats. Here is a breakdown of foods that we recommend:

1.Eggs

This for us is top of the list of cholesterol-boosting foods. This T-boosting animal product will provide you with a range of nutrients, including vitamins A, D and E, as well as the mineral selenium which is a potent antioxidant.

Each egg will provide you with around 5 grams of fats, from which you’ll get a decent amount of HDLs- most of which is in the yolk of the egg, so don’t just eat the egg white.

Additionally, upping your fat intake by eating eggs on a regular basis, whilst reducing carbohydrates, has been found to not only increase your HDL levels, but also decrease insulin sensitivity [3].


Eggs-to-boost-T-levels


2.Organ meats

Theories exist that organ meat was a much larger part of our diets as hunter-gatherers than it is now. Apparently our teeth tell the story that we wouldn’t be suited to eat the hairy, tough outer layers of an animal and that we would have preferred the softer, more nutritious innards.

Whilst not to everyone’s taste, liver, kidneys and heart are a great source of CHOL and saturated fat, as well as B vitamins, zinc, creatine and choline which is great for brain health.

As well as these nutrients, organ meat contains CoQ10 – an effective antioxidant involved in energy production. It also happens to be an expensive supplement you can purchase, whereas liver and kidneys are extremely cheap to buy.


Organ-Meat-Testosterone

3. Beef

This popular red meat is a great source of protein and saturated fat, as well as zinc, vitamin D and magnesium. In reality we could suggest a range of red and dark meats such as lamb, bison and game but we’ve gone for beef just based on its availability, cost and accessibility


Beef-and-Cholesterol

4. Shrimp

This crustacean seafood is packed full of vitamin D3 which is synthesized via CHOL- in fact it is often referred to as the sixth steroid hormone.

This vitamin boosts your immune system and is essential to both healthy teeth and bone density. It is also important as it increases testosterone and energy levels. Supplementing 3,332 IUs of this vitamin has been found to increase both natural testosterone and free testosterone significantly [5].


Shrimp-and-HDLs

5. Blue Cheese

There are endless amounts and choices of cheese, and they all have high levels of saturated fats and CHOL. But blue cheese also contains bacteria in the form of probiotics. These are very effective at lowering cortisol – a hormone that has a negative effect on testosterone.

Studies have found that diets rich in probiotics help to stimulate T levels, as well as increase the size of your testes [6].


Blue-Cheese-Probiotic

Summary – the cholesterol and testosterone relationship

Cholesterol is a lipid – a fatty substance that forms part of every cell’s outer membrane. It is made by the liver but also obtained through the foods that we eat.

In order for these lipids to travel in the bloodstream they are packaged up within proteins – this combination of Protein and fat is referred to as a lipoprotein.

Cholesterol and testosterone are both classed as steroids as they share a similar ring structure. In fact this lipid synthesizes all steroids hormones, including testosterone. Without sufficient amounts obtained from the diet, testosterone levels are not optimized.

There are a range of foods that can increase testosterone, including red meats, organ meats and cheese. It is important that you include these in your diet where possible to optimize your hormones.


References

  1. Freedman, DS et al. Relation of serum testosterone levels to high density lipoprotein cholesterol and other characteristics in men. Arterioscler Thromb. 1991; 11(2): 307-15.
  2. Stanworth, RD et al. Testosterone levels correlate positively with HDL cholesterol levels in men with Type 2 diabetes. Endocrine Abstracts. 2007; 14: 628
  3. Heller, RF et al. Relationship of high density lipoprotein cholesterol with total and free testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin. Acta Endocrinol (Copenh). 1983; 104(2): 253-6.
  4. Wang, C et al. Low-fat high-fiber diet decreased serum and urine androgens in men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005; 90(6): 3550-9
  5. Pilz S, Frisch S, Koertke H, Kuhn J, Dreier J, Obermayer-Pietsch B, Wehr E, Zittermann A. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res.2011; 43(3): 223–225.
  6. Theofilos, P et al. Probiotic Microbes Sustain Youthful Serum Testosterone Levels and Testicular Size in Aging Mice. PLoS One. 2014; 9(1): e84877

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