Use Vitamin D to Promote Testosterone Production
Let’s take a few minutes to talk about the research and evidence regarding vitamin D supplementation and testosterone. There’s a fair amount of research out there that is compelling and growing, so I took some time to summarize and condense it.
How does vitamin D regulate testosterone? Primarily this occurs because vitamin D inhibits the process of aromatization in which testosterone is changed into estrogen. It also appears that vitamin D may enhance the sensitivity of cell receptors in the testicular glands that produce testosterone.
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A 2008 study showed the risk of falls in the elderly was reduced more in individuals with increased testosterone, vitamin D and calcium than when compared to only elevated testosterone levels. These results suggests a synergistic relationship between testosterone and vitamin D.
In a 2010 study, men with sufficient vitamin D levels (> or =30 microg/l) had significantly higher levels of testosterone and free androgen index (FAI), and significantly lower levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) when compared to to men with insufficient (20-29.9 microg/l) and deficient vitamin D (<20 microg/l). Additionally, testosterone levels followed a seasonal pattern, peaking in August and being at their lowest level in March.
In 2011, researchers found men who supplemented vitamin D had significant increases in total testosterone, bioactive testosterone and free testosterone when compared to baseline. Conversely, the control group did not show significant increases in any of those levels.
More recently, a 2012 study found that vitamin D levels are linearly associated with testosterone levels up to about 75-85 nmol/L where the relationship begins to plateau.
To be fair, I must also share a 2013 study that had negative results. The authors of this study administered supplemental vitamin D and found no significant effect on serum or total free testosterone. However, they did find that serum vitamin D was a predictor of testosterone levels.
According to the National Institute of Health, the recommended daily allowance for individuals over 18 is 600 IU/day and 800 IU/day after 70. However, for individuals with certain diseases related to vitamin D deficiency, such as chronic kidney disease, the recommendations are higher. Also folks who live at latitudes more distant from the equator are at greater risk of a vitamin D deficiency.
This suggests the 600-800 IU/day may be appropriate but still subclinical for optimal vitamin D. One of the studies I referenced used 3000 IU/day. Talk to your doctor about measuring your vitamin D level and ask before you begin supplementing more than the RDA.
The best source of vitamin D is natural sunlight. However, that’s not always an option and dietary sources include fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), fish liver, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, and fortified foods (namely, milk and breakfast cereals).
Many of these studies are looking at individuals who have a deficiency in vitamin D for one reason or another. Like most vitamins, minerals and supplements, there is almost certainly a saturation point at which the benefits subside.
Regarding testosterone, it seems relatively clear that men with low vitamin D will have an increase in testosterone when they begin supplementing. That benefit is not as obvious or well studied in men who have normal levels of vitamin D.
And on a final note, in the grand scheme of things, vitamin D supplementation has relatively few, if any major side effects when taken at the recommended daily allowance and should be part of a baseline supplement regimen for weight lifters.
Additive benefit of higher testosterone levels and vitamin D plus calcium supplementation in regard to fall risk reduction among older men and women. Osteoporosis International (2008), Bischoff-Ferrari et al.