“Fat increases the level of testosterone” - according to common theories about the influence of the mentioned macro nutrient on the body, whereas, the most advantageous fats in this matter are supposed to be those of animal origin. However, it's good to consider, if the assumption stated above is supported in scientific literature, or maybe it is just another empty statement. In this article I will take a closer look at this matter in reference to the results of research.
Biological role of lipids
Fat is an important nutrition component: apart from the fact that it is a concentrated source of energy, it also serves as the carrier of vitamins A, E, D and K, it also supplies fatty acids, in which tissue hormones are created, and which are used as the building material of cell membranes and white matter of the brain. Fats found in food are often in a form of triacylglicerols (also called triglycerides), i.e. molecules consisting of glycerol and three rests of fatty acids.
The division of fatty acids
Fatty acids included in triacylglicerols differentiate among one another with structure, and these differences include:
the length of chain (we can extinguish short-, medium- and long-chained fatty acids, the latter definitely dominate in our food),
presence or absence of double boundaries (saturated acids and mono- or polyunsaturated acids, the unsaturated ones are assumed to be indispensable, however, the others should also appear in diet),
location of double boundaries (omega 3, omega 6, omega 9 fatty acids, to the first and second group the EFA belong to in a form of linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid),
spacial configuration (cis and trans fatty acids, in our food cis fatty acids are dominating, the latter are usually formed in the process of hydrogenating plant oils, they are also harmful, although, to be precise, it's good to add that they are also present in milk fat – these are not harmful),
physical, chemical and biological properties of nutrition fats mainly depend on the kind of triacylglicerols of fatty acids found in them. The mentioned features decide about the influence of particular kinds of fat on the body.
Fat and testosterone
Edible fat is definitely one of the key factors influencing the production of testosterone. Scientific data points out that low intake of fat, lower than 20% of the supplied energy, may decrease the production of androgens. There is also data, on the basis of which it's possible to conclude that high intake of this macro nutrient, on the level of about 40% of the calorific amount of diet, will be advantageous in this matter and increase the level of the mentioned hormones. But, neither should you draw far-reaching conclusions (stating e.g. that the more fat you eat, the better it is for the production of testosterone), nor treat all kinds of fat equally.
Enough is enough
It should be underlined, that the positive influence of higher intake of fat on the synthesis of testosterone ends at some point. And so, when the supply of fat is on the level of about 40% of daily energy intake, this “androgenic” effect is positive, but when it gets very high, the result is opposite. It means, that there has to exist some limit, after which further increase of the amount of fat doesn't foster lifting the level of testosterone, but it causes its additional suppression.
Because the devil is in the details
Except for the quantity aspects described above, the aspect of consuming particular fatty acids is very important for the subject. There are studies, which point out, that the intake of monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids correlates positively with the level of testosterone, whereas, the intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids – correlates negatively. It means, that such food products, as olive oil, avocado, butter, fatty meat and coconut oil influence the level of androgens better than e.g. sunflower seed oil, corn oil, or grape-pip oil.
Most of all – moderation
You should not draw far-reaching conclusions from the dependencies mentioned above, which state that you should eat as much monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids as possible and limit the polyunsaturated fatty acids to minimum, because there's no proof for that. All groups of fatty acids should be found in diet, it would be best, if they were not processed that much. You should also remember, that the production of testosterone is not the only factor conditioning health, mood and physical condition. That's the reason why you shouldn't consider balanced diet thinking about improving the quality of life – speeding up the progress in building strength or muscle mass – having only fat on your mind.
In general, fat intake may be the factor, which influences the production of testosterone. Low-fat diets (supplying less than 20% of daily supply of energy from fat) are the factors, which decrease the level of testosterone. On the other hand, extremely high supply of this macro nutrient is also potentially dangerous for sustaining the mentioned hormone on high level. The choice of quality of lipids is crucial for this matter. Saturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids, probably influence the production of testosterone in a positive way, whereas, unsaturated fatty acids from the omega 6 group show opposite properties.