Low Testosterone and Inflammatory Foods: A New Study Supports the Connection

Inflammation has a bad reputation, but it is an important contributor to your body’s natural defense system. Inflammation is your body at work, either protecting itself from illness or promoting healing when injured.

However, the link between chronic, sustained inflammation found in various parts of the body and a variety of serious health issues is well established.

Your diet, what you eat on a daily basis, is one significant factor that affects the level of inflammation you might be experiencing. New research coming out of the West China Hospital at Sichuan University suggests that significant amounts of pro-inflammatory foods in your daily diet could contribute to low testosterone levels.

A dietician writes in a notebook near a bowl of vegetables. Scientists are studying the connection between low testosterone and inflammatory foods.

What’s a Pro-Inflammatory Diet?

Simply put, a pro-inflammatory diet is made up of foods that contain ingredients that cause or contribute to inflammation within your body.  These ingredients are found throughout the everyday American diet and include:

  • Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup
  • Refined or processed carbohydrates
  • Artificial trans fats
  • Vegetable and seed oils
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Processed meat

Another prominent characteristic of a pro-inflammatory diet is an insufficient amount of fruits and vegetables.

Inflammatory Foods and Low Testosterone

The DII (Dietary Inflammatory Index) is a tool that assesses the inflammatory potential of a person’s diet, particularly in relation to other markers of health.

Researchers examined the potential connection between DII scores and testosterone deficiency among US males using data from the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). These scientists analyzed data compiled from 4151 men, 20 years of age and older, who had provided a 24-hour dietary intake survey and underwent a test that measured their serum testosterone levels.

The scientists calculated the Dietary Inflammatory Index using 27 of the 45 food parameters from the NHANES database, with 20 of the 27 food parameters being anti-inflammatory. The remaining 7 pro-inflammatory food parameters included the following:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Iron
  • Carbohydrates
  • Cholesterol
  • Fat
  • Saturated fat acid
  • Protein

They labeled each included food parameter with an inflammatory effect score. Higher numerical DII ratings represented a greater contribution to a pro-inflammatory diet, while lower numerical scores indicated foods that contributed to an anti-inflammatory diet.

Men with the most pro-inflammatory diet were found to be 30% more likely to have low testosterone levels compared to men with the most anti-inflammatory diet, even when adjusted for other factors such as body mass index and smoking.

The overall analysis revealed that the risk of low testosterone was greatest in men who were obese and had a higher DII—a staggering 60% higher compared to men with obesity who had a lower DII.

While this is only a single study, its findings would indicate that inflammation makes a significant contribution to the development of low testosterone.

(You can find the research study abstract here.)

Other Health Concerns Related to Inflammation

Low testosterone isn’t the only health problem associated with inflammation. A recent study presented at the 2018 American Society of Nephrology Annual Meeting found evidence that a pro-inflammatory diet exacerbated kidney disease, significantly increasing disease severity.

While it may seem like common sense to some, the scientific evidence indicates that cutting back on pro-inflammatory foods could lower the likelihood of developing low testosterone (as well as other serious health concerns).

Will Cutting Pro-Inflammatory Foods Improve Low Testosterone Symptoms?

If you’re a person whose hormone levels are borderline, improvements to your diet and exercise routine might reduce symptoms by encouraging your body to slightly increase testosterone production and improve your hormone balance.

However, if your testosterone levels are clinically low or your symptoms are severe, Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) is something you should learn more about.

Our comprehensive guide to Testosterone Replacement Therapy answers the most common questions about the treatment of low testosterone.

Read Our TRT Guide


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(Augie) Juan Augustine Galindo Jr. MPAS, PA-C

(Augie) Juan Augustine Galindo Jr. MPAS, PA-C started his career in healthcare as a fireman/paramedic in West Texas where he served on the Midland Fire Department from 1998-2004.   He became interested in testosterone treatment after seeing how hormone replacement doctors helped those suffering from low testosterone.   After graduating from the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center Physician Assistant Program, he moved to DFW where he currently lives with his wife and three children.

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