Testosterone is now one of the most widely consumed medications in the United States.
This is because there is an increasing proportion of elderly men an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases that are associated with a low testosterone level.
All men experience an increase in their natural testosterone levels from puberty all the way through to adulthood. Unfortunately, testosterone begins to decline from the age of thirty (Kaufman and Vermeulen, 2005).
In fact, it is well documented that the incidence of testosterone deficiency increases by up to 2% per year after the age of thirty (McBride et al., 2015). In middle-aged men, the incidence of testosterone deficiency has been reported to be about 6%.
This phenomenon has led to the coinage of a new medical term – andropause. Andropause is characterized by a stepwise decline in testosterone levels, which is associated with a bevy of adverse effects.
What role does testosterone play in men’s health?
A declining testosterone level should not be understated. This is because it can cause a decreased frequency of morning erections, erectile dysfunction, as well as reduced libido or sexual drive.
Testosterone is not just important for sexual health. Testosterone is also essential for maintaining lean muscle mass and bone mineral density. Additionally, testosterone regulates the metabolism of fat (McBride et al., 2015).
The phenomenon of andropause has led to some radical measures in medicine. This is especially so amongst doctors who manage men’s sexual health.
Indeed, millions of American men today are being prescribed testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). Alternatively, they are being prescribed with testosterone boosters. (Brawer, 2004, Corona et al., 2017). TRT is routinely prescribed to men with andropause to raise their testosterone levels. This is associated with an improvement in secondary sexual characteristics, such as the development of facial and chest sexual function as well as a sense of wellbeing.
Although at first glance, TRT appears to be the logical solution for andropause, it is not without its side effects. Several scientific studies have shown that TRT is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and heart disease (Basaria et al., 2010).
TRT is also associated with other uncomfortable side effects. These include:
- Fluid retention
- Gynecomastia (development of male breast tissue)
- Infertility (Rivas et al., 2014).
In view of the side effects of TRT, it is important that men who have testosterone deficiency look for natural alternatives.
This applies to men who want to prevent the onset of testosterone deficiency as well. This is essential for the following reasons. First, TRT is very expensive (up to several hundreds of dollars per month) and is associated with side-effects, which may worsen one’s quality of life.
Conversely, naturally occurring compounds which are not scarce, tend to be more affordably priced. Second, naturally occurring compounds exert other systemic benefits because of their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
For these reasons, we will be discussing Vitamin D in this article. We will explore the benefits of Vitamin D, its links with testosterone, and ways in which to boost one’s Vitamin D levels naturally.
We will also critically analyze studies that endorse the claim that Vitamin D is a natural testosterone booster.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble prohormone. It is a unique vitamin because it is the only vitamin that is manufactured by human skin after exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D was discovered in the early part of the 20th century.
It was observed that cod liver oil was effective in preventing the development of rickets. Vitamin D exists in two variations – Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3 (Nair and Maseeh, 2012). Vitamin D2 is obtained from ultraviolet (UV) irradiation of yeast compounds.
It can be found in mushrooms that are exposed to natural sunlight. Vitamin D3, on the other hand, is synthesized when ultraviolet B rays strike human skin. Vitamin D3 could be considered to be the more natural form of Vitamin D. Indeed; Vitamin D2 is not made by humans. Most oily fish, such as salmon and herring, contain vitamin D3 instead of vitamin D2.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Bone & Mineral Metabolism
Vitamin D is essential for normal bone and mineral metabolism. It is effective in preventing degenerative bone diseases. Degenerative bone diseases include rickets and osteomalacia. Vitamin D is so important for the normal functioning of the bodily organs.
This is because vitamin D receptors are expressed by virtually every tissue and cell (Pilz et al., 2019). Vitamin D maintains plasma concentrations of calcium and phosphorous in a healthy range. This is important for maintaining the body’s metabolic functions (Hossein-nezhad and Holick, 2013)
Prevention of Fractures
In addition to regulating bone and mineral metabolism, Vitamin D plays a dual role in preventing fractures. This is because it not only increased bone density but also improves muscular strength and balance.
These positive effects on the musculoskeletal system result in a reduced risk of falling. Studies show that this association is strengthened at higher levels of Vitamin D intake (e.g., 800-1000 IU) (Stöcklin and Eggersdorfer, 2013).
Optimizing Cardiovascular Health
Most people are aware of the associations between Vitamin D and bone health and muscle strength. However, there is not much general knowledge about Vitamin D’s effects on the cardiovascular system. Evidence suggests that there is a strong relationship between vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular outcomes (e.g. heart attack, stroke and heart failure).
The lower one’s vitamin D levels, the higher their risk for adverse cardiovascular outcomes (Stöcklin and Eggersdorfer, 2013). Even so, researchers have not been able to attribute Vitamin D deficiency as a cause of heart attacks. Still, it is prudent to ensure that one’s Vitamin D levels are in the healthy range, so as to optimize one’s cardiovascular health.
Strengthening the Immune System
Vitamin D has been shown to boost the immune system by augmenting the innate and adaptive immune responses. Vitamin D can also regulate a hyperactive immune system. It can also prevent the development of auto-immune diseases (e.g., type 1 diabetes mellitus and multiple sclerosis) (Aranow, 2011).
One interesting phenomenon has been observed by researchers. Researchers observed that the rates of auto-immune disease and cancer are higher at higher latitudes. This is interesting because people who live at higher latitudes are at a higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D has also been shown to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria. Before the discovery of antibiotics, Vitamin D was used to treat tuberculosis, with success in some cases.
The Link Between Vitamin D and Testosterone
The link between Vitamin D and testosterone is unequivocal; Vitamin D acts as a natural testosterone booster. Several well designed observational studies and randomized controlled trials support this association. Anatomically, the male reproductive tract contains many receptors for Vitamin D.
One study looked at healthy overweight men and analyzed their testosterone levels. Some participants received 3000 IU of Vitamin D daily for one year, whereas others received a placebo (dummy medicine) for the same duration. Almost all the participants had a Vitamin D deficiency at the beginning of the study. This is because most of the participants were diabetics.
Diabetes is associated with Vitamin D deficiency. After one year, the researchers observed a significant increase in circulating testosterone levels amongst men in the Vitamin D group. In contrast, there was no significant change in the testosterone levels amongst the placebo group (Pilz et al., 2011).
A more recent 2019 study evaluated the effects of Vitamin D supplementation on serum total testosterone. The men studied in this study had a baseline testosterone deficiency. One hundred healthy men were randomized to receive 20,000 IU of Vitamin D per week for 12 weeks or placebo (dummy medicine) for the same duration. In this study, the researchers did not observe a significant treatment effect on total testosterone.
This is in contrast to what other studies have found. One explanation for this is that most of the men recruited into the study already had normal or higher than expected Vitamin D levels. That is to say, the men who were studied may already have been supplementing themselves with Vitamin D through dietary habits.
A 2018 study sought to test the effects of Vitamin D on sexual function. This study was unique in that it did not look at the absolute testosterone levels in isolation. In this study, 114 men were evaluated clinically, biochemically, and sexually.
The researchers observed a significant association between high testosterone values and Vitamin D replacement therapy. Additionally, total and free testosterone increased after Vitamin D replacement therapy. This was associated with an improvement in erectile function (Tirabassi et al., 2018).
The previous studies looked mainly at Caucasian men. However, studies have found similar links between Vitamin D and testosterone levels in Asian men as well.
One 2015 study looked at middle-aged Korean men. There was a significant association between testosterone and Vitamin D levels. More importantly, a stronger association was seen between vitamin D deficiency and testosterone deficiency. This suggests that the treatment effect of Vitamin D on testosterone is stronger when there is an underlying Vitamin D deficiency (Tak et al., 2015).
Boosting Vitamin D Levels
With the above evidence in mind, it is not absolutely clear if Vitamin D supplementation will boost testosterone naturally in all men. What is clear is that Vitamin D supplementation in Vitamin D deficient men will significantly boost testosterone.
Vitamin D deficiency is assumed to affect only a minority of people. But the truth is that a staggering 41.6% of Americans are deficient in this essential vitamin (Parva et al., 2018). This is because the United States is a developed country, and most Americans remain indoors for most of their waking life.
Furthermore, the Westernized diet is poor in Vitamin D and rich in saturated fats, carbohydrates, and free radicals. Most American men do not have adequate sunlight exposure. They also have an inadequate dietary intake of Vitamin D. Together.
These factors lead to a Vitamin D deficiency amongst American men. Other risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency include gastrointestinal diseases. These include Crohn’s disease and celiac disease.
- Sunlight: The first and most natural way of boosting one’s Vitamin D levels is through adequate sunlight exposure. However, most Americans hold indoor jobs and this approach may not be workable for some men who work shift-jobs. There is also the fear that chronic exposure to sunlight may increase one’s risk of developing certain skin cancers.
- Diet: The second way of boosting one’s Vitamin D levels is through dietary habits. The main sources of dietary Vitamin D are fish and fish products, eggs, vegetable fats, and oils, and milk or dairy products (Jungert et al., 2014). However, this approach may not be entirely feasible for men who have strict dietary habits (e.g., veganism) or for those who are lactose intolerant.
- Supplementation: The third way of improving one’s Vitamin D levels is through supplementation. At Ben’s Natural Health, we synergize Vitamin D with many other potent and naturally occurring compounds. This way, we are able to develop comprehensive and holistic supplement blends. Ben’s Total Health for the Prostate contains 5,000 IU of Vitamin D. This blend also contains quercetin, turmeric, Japanese sophora flower, zinc, and beta-sitosterol.
Supplements which Raise Testosterone Levels
Although subtle, the effects of zinc on testosterone levels are undisputed. One randomized controlled trial in 2017 supplemented men with hypogonadism with zinc. This resulted in an improvement in male sex hormone levels, spermatogenesis, and masculinization (Liu et al., 2017).
Ginseng has also been observed to increase blood testosterone levels. This is because of its constituent ginsenoside, which results in an improvement in libido as well (Leung and Wong, 2013).
Ashwagandha is a herb that has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) medicine. It has also been validated in a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled cross over study. Ashwagandha is effective in boosting testosterone levels in aging and overweight men (Lopresti et al., 2019).
Fenugreek is a seed extract from a spice. It has been shown to increase both total and free serum testosterone in male subjects during resistance training. One study found that it increased testosterone levels and reduced body fat. Body fat reduction occurred without a corresponding decrease in muscular strength (Wankhede et al., 2016).
Finally, ginger has also been proven to enhance testosterone production. Ginger stimulates luteinizing hormone production and increases the concentrations of cholesterol within the testes. It also reduces oxidative stress because it is an anti-oxidant.
Ginger enhances the production of nitric oxide, which dilates the vessels. These include the vessel which supplies blood to the Leydig cells. The improved blood supply increases its capacity for testosterone production (Banihani, 2018).
Testosterone deficiency is closely linked with Vitamin D deficiency. 6% of middle-aged men have a testosterone deficiency, and this incidence rises by 2% for each year after 30. Conversely, 41% of the world’s population is Vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D has benefits that extend far beyond sexual health. Vitamin D is important for bone mineralization and muscle strength. It is useful in fall prevention, cardiovascular health, and even in strengthening the immune system. Vitamin D is readily manufactured in our own skin during sunlight exposure and is rich in certain foods.
However, most American men do not expose themselves to sufficient sunlight or consume enough Vitamin D. Therefore, men are encouraged to consume foods that are rich in Vitamin D. Examples include fish, dairy, eggs, and vegetable fats. Alternatively, men can consume supplements with Vitamin D.
We strongly encourage men to consume Vitamin D supplements that are blended with synergistic compounds. This can boost their overall sexual and prostate health for maximum effect.