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Low Fat Diets: Do They Affect Testosterone?

STEP 7C:  If you are high estradiol, you may want to consider a low fat diet in order to slash estradiol levels: while maintaining your current testosterone:

One of the big myths out there is that low fat diets lower testosterone levels.  Of course, anecdotally, this could be true with some men, but the research is clear that is not generally the case and I outline just why below.  Before, we look at the pertinent studies, let me point out why you would even want to consider a low fat diet and what that has to do with estradiol levels::

  • Potentially slash your estradiol levels while maintaining testosterone. (See study #2 below.)
  • Stop arterial plaque in its tracks and possibly reverse it.
  • Reverse any diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Boost nitric oxide and blood flow.
  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Lose weight easily if you want to.

I also want to mention that I am enjoying the benefits of a Low Fat Diet: I just had a Heart Scan and showed Zero Cardiac Plaque . However, I know what many men are thinking and some even write to me:

“Sure, you enjoy a Low Fat Diet. You’re on HRT!”

It’s true that I am on testosterone therapy.  But I would be consuming a Low Fat Diet even if I wasn’t.  In fact, I did consume a Low Fat Diet when I was still very close to hypogonadal.  Nevertheless, I don’t want to ignore the point of those who have brought up the subject.  These men are concerned that Low Fat Diets significantly decrease testosterone.  Lets look at the actual studies and see what they say.

NOTE:  I always encourage a Low Fat Diet with minimal wheat and corn because these are heavily GMO’d foods. it is also critical that you eat a low glycemic, low fat diet.  Refined carbs, including white and basmati rice, must be avoided at all costs. See my page on Using a Low Fat Diet to Reverse Diabetes.

1.  Healthy Men Aged 19 to 46 (13%).  This study took men and put them on either a 41% fat diet or a 19% fat diet.  The lower fat diet had more fiber and a lower saturated fat to polyunsaturated ratio, both of which are supposed to lower testosterone.  So the men on the Lower Fat Diet had dramatically lower T, right?  Wrong!  Their testosterone was 13% lower.  That’s it.

So think about it.  The men on the higher fat diet would very likely develop arteriosclerosis at an acclerated rate and steadily lose endothelial function.  The men on the lower fat diet would have much less arterial plaque and would have greatly increased blood flow and nitric oxide.  Now that’s a fair trade for a 13% reduction in testosterone if you ask me!  The conclusion is clear:  dramatically increased nitric oxide for an inconsequential drop in testosterone.

2.  Cross Section of Men (0%).  This study found that men going on a true Low Fat Diet at the Pritikin Center experienced no change in testosterone levels.  Total T was 510 ng/dl before and about 510 after.  What was remarkable, though, was the fact that estradiol dropped like a rock and fell by a little over 50%! [2]

By the way, some of you mistrust Low Fat Diets, because you consider them a radicalized diet that is vegan only and allows no meat.  And it is true that some of the current leaders in the movement are vegans.  However, the real apostle of Low Fat Diets in the U.S. was Nathan Pritikin and he ate a little meat regularly.  (He only chose lower fat selections however.)  Dr. Gould, one of the physicians that I call a Plaque Reverser, actually encourages some meat consumption.  And Dr. Ornish, probably the most well-known of the Low Fat Diet gurus, allowed for egg whites and some nonfat dairy in his program.

So, again, this study shows NO drop in testosterone and a very significant boost in the T/E2 ratio.  This will almost for sure help you feel better and protect your prostate as well.

CAUTION:  One reason that low fat diets do not lower testosterone levels is that they generally are not high protein.  Higher levels of protein tend to lower testosterone and most of these studies are not on bodybuilders and athletes trying to consume 160 grams of protein a day obviously.  If you are going to consume a lot of protein, then you may want to run your testosterone before and after as  precautionary measure.  You can do so by using one of the labs on this page:  Inexpensive Testosterone Labs for Men Who Wish to Self-Test.

Did you know you can inexpensively do your own testing for most hormones? The industry leader is Discounted Labs..

3.  Early Senior Aged Men (12%).  This study put men on a higher fat, low fiber diet and contrasted with a high fiber, lower fat diet.  Again, this is supposed to hammer testosterone levels according to anti-low fat pundits.  Of course, no such thing happened and testosterone levels fell by a meager 12%.

Again, who thinks that eating low amounts of fiber is going to improve health?  If you added fiber to the higher fat diet, it might erase the testosterone differential altogether.

Anti-Low Fat Mythology

These studies show that Low Fat Diets have been unfairly characterized as “Low Testosterone Diets”.  The research just is not there to support that idea.  The truth is that they may slightly lower your testosterone according to the research, but a very small amount.  Let’s say your testosterone is sitting at 700 ng/dl.  If it lowers 15%, you may go down to right about 600 ng/dl.  This is not something that you are likely to notice, especially since your nitric oxide and energy levels are probably going through the roof.

I recently wrote a page on binge drinking.  Those who consume a lot of alcohol may see their testosterone drop about 23% a half day later.  But what do you get for that loss in testosterone?  Hardened arteries and a hangover!  If you are going to trade a little testosterone, get something good in return.  And a Low Fat Diet delivers.

What about the fact that a Low Fat Diet will supposedly raises SHBG and lower your free testosterone percentage?  It is true that that could happen.  Again, though, you will be more than compensated for by the incredible drop in estradiol that you will likely experience.  Remember:  the testosterone-to-estrogen ratio is all important according to many experts and men on HRT.  (See my link on the Testosterone-to-Estradiol Ratio for more information.

One last thing: in my opinion you definitely want clear arteries. Don’t buy into the silly argument that arteriosclerosis is a normal part of life. Read the very popular Track Your Plaque by William Davis, who is a non-low fat cardiologist if you do not believe me. You can clear arteries.  Remember:  there is no substitute for clearing out your arteries.  If your arteries are clear and clean, you can almost always fix anything else.

LOW FAT TO PRESERVE YOUR TESTOSTERONE:  One last thing to remember is that we do have one culture with documented high testosterone well into their senior years – the Okinawans.  As I discuss in my link on How to Avoid Andropause, the Okinawans had testosterone levels of the typical Westerner three decades younger. And what is remarkable about this is that they did everything wrong. The Okinawans ate some meat but not much – a little fish and pork for example, but nothing by modern Western standards. Furthermore, they ate relatively low amounts of total fat and saturated fat. And, finally, they even consumed a fair amount of soy, which is supposed to anti-testosterone!

Yet, in spite of all this, the Okinawans had the highest recorded testosterone levels in their senior years of any culture or people group. Here is how researchers described the Okinawan Diet in a recent review paper:

“Features such as the low levels of saturated fat, high antioxidant intake, and low glycemic load in these diets are likely contributing to a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and other chronic diseases through multiple mechanisms, including reduced oxidative stress. A comparison of the nutrient profiles of the three dietary patterns shows that the traditional Okinawan diet is the lowest in fat intake, particularly in terms of saturated fat, and highest in carbohydrate intake, in keeping with the very high intake of antioxidant-rich yet calorie-poor orange-yellow root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, and green leafy vegetables.” [4]

Again, what sounds good on paper doesn’t always work well in real life. There is hardly a day that goes by where I do not see someone in the health press criticizing low saturated fat, high carb diets. The Okinawans show that such arguments could not be more wrong.

Now, if you just simply feel that you cannot handle a diet without fat for some reason, then I would recommend that you follow a Mediterranean or standard (lacto-ovo-)vegetarian diet, both of which have done well in the studies.

WARNING ABOUT PROTEIN:  I do have one caution about the above.  The above studies of Low Fat Diets would not have included high quantities of protein such as many men consume for athletics, strength training or bodybuilding consume.  There are a couple of studies that show that a higher protein to carb ratio can pull down testosterone levels.

For this reason, if you go on a Low Fat Diet, you may want to monitor testosterone before and after and make sure that it doesn’t dip.  There simply is no study work on this as far as I know.

In fact, it is not a bad idea, if you can afford it, to monitor testosterone levels before and after anyway.  Studies deal in averages and you may have a metabolism that is unique for some reason.

NOTE:  You may also be interested in my page on The Incredible Benefits of a Low Fat Diet .

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