Use Saturated Fat to Promote Testosterone Production
We all know that hydrogenated fats and trans fats are bad for our health, but what about saturated fat? The dietary dogma for the last 50 years was that saturated fat was another culprit that contributed to plaque in our arteries, heart attacks and strokes. However, more recent evidence is stating that the negative health effects are not as clear and perhaps there are benefits.
One of the many changes regarding our knowledge of saturated fat is it’s relationship with testosterone. There is a growing body of evidence that diets low in saturated fat are associated with low testosterone. There’s also evidence that suggests diets high in fat increase total testosterone when compared to diets low in fat.
Saturated fat is named thus because all of the carbon atoms on the fatty acid chain are saturated with hydrogen atoms. Unsaturated fatty acids do not have fully saturated carbon chains. Trans fats refer to the configuration of the carbon-carbon bonds. I’m not going to get in anymore detail about that in this video.
There are different types of saturated fat, namely from meats, certain plants and dairy.
- coconut oil: Lauric acid
- Meats: palmitic and stearic acid
- Dairy: myristic acid
What about other health issues? Well we’re not out of the woods yet. Classically, this fat was linked to elevated cholesterol and risk of heart attack and stroke. More recently, the evidence is not as clear and neither are the conclusions. More recent data is saying that saturated fat may not have a negative impact at all, but the data is still mixed and more definitive research is needed.
Low Saturated Fat & Testosterone Levels
It has been known since as early as the 1970s that decreases dietary fat intake is associated with a decrease in circulating testosterone. In one study, authors looked at dietary changes from a traditional south african diet to a western diet. One of the things they found was that changing to a higher fat western diet lead to an increase in excretion of the metabolic products of testosterone (a proxy for serum testosterone levels)
More recently, a 2005 study reviewed the same issue looking at 50-60 year old men who were switched from a high fat to a low fat diet and the researchers measured the hormone level. There was a significant decrease in serum testosterone as well as free testosterone, and other andorgens (5-DHT or 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone, androstendione, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate)
Increased Saturated Fat Intake & Testosterone Levels
These studies show that low fat diets are associated with low testosterone, but what about increasing your saturated fat and fatty acid intake. Does that increase your testosterone? Well the evidence says yes.
A 1996 study took 43 men who were randomly started on either a 10 wk low fat, high fiber diet or a 10 wk high fat low, fiber diet who were switched to the other after 2 weeks washout period. What they found was that total testosterone and testosterone bound to sex hormone binding globulin were higher in the high fat group
Another study from 1997 addressed this question looking at the effects of diet and exercise on testosterone and cholesterol. 12 men did bench press and jump protocols and the researchers did a food questionnaire. There was a significant correlation between serum testosterone, total percent energy from fat, as well as saturated fat, MUFA and PUFA
It’s also worth noting that there is evidence that high fat diets acutely inhibit testosterone levels in the very short term, and the reasons for this are not entirely clear.
Now I do not recommend you start mixing a cup of lard into your protein shakes, but there are healthy sources. This includes primarily: fatty meats (beef, lamb, pork) and dairy (cream, butter, cheese, whole milk).
Approach this with cautious optimism. I would advise you to use this knowledge to your benefit and not make dietary decisions based purely on fear of high fat diets or saturated fat. It seems clear that these diets probably promote testosterone production to some degree. Conversely, you should keep in mind that high fat diets, including saturated fat, may have other risks related to diabetes, heart attack and stroke. More research really is needed to make definitive statements about the health of saturated fat.
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