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Does Sugar Lower Testosterone? (From a Nutritionist)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Last updated: January 8, 2023

Modifying sugar intake is part of most diet plans for my fitness clients.

Many are surprised to learn how much sugar they are consuming and often question if it can impact their testosterone levels.

I’ve reviewed some medical literature to bolster my knowledge and answer this question properly.

I then sat with our nutritionist to discuss how sugar impacts health and whether it can be one of the primary causes of low testosterone levels.

Let’s dive in.

Quick Summary

  • Excessive oral glucose ingestion can lead to insulin resistance (impaired insulin sensitivity) which may lead to a low testosterone level (male hypogonadism).
  • High sugar consumption is a big problem in the U.S. and leads to many health problems, including impaired insulin sensitivity, metabolic syndrome, visceral adiposity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Insulin can promote testosterone production while simultaneously inhibiting sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).

Can Sugar Lower Testosterone Levels?

A test for blood measuring sugar level

Sugar can lower testosterone levels in men because excessive sugar consumption can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, and impaired insulin sensitivity can affect testosterone levels [1].

Before we take a closer look at how sugar ingestion affects testosterone levels and other areas of your health, let’s look at what to look for on product labels that you need to recognize as added sugar.

The following is a list of common added sugars that you should avoid:

  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Sugars ending in “ose”: dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose

Let’s take a closer look at how sugar affects testosterone levels.

How Does Sugar Affect Testosterone Levels?

Sugar affects testosterone levels in two ways: an abrupt decrease that recovers over a couple of hours and a more long-term effect by causing insulin resistance and obesity, thus creating a vicious cycle.

One study of adult males concluded that sugar intake could affect normal testosterone levels immediately [2].

Researchers assessed the impact of oral glucose load on 74 men ages 19-74, who had varying glucose tolerance, and found an abrupt drop in total and free testosterone levels.

The participants underwent a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test, with researchers recording blood samples at 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes.

The participants experienced a 25% decrease in mean testosterone levels that remained suppressed for 120 minutes.

BMI and glucose tolerance were not factors.

Excessive sugar intake can impact testosterone levels in men over the long term by leading to impaired insulin sensitivity which research shows directly decreases the Leydig cell testosterone secretion [3].

Additionally, high sugar consumption, like sugary beverages, processed foods, or refined carbs, can increase body fat.

A high body mass index (BMI) in the overweight or obese range can decrease serum testosterone levels [4].

In turn, low testosterone can cause weight gain and more fat.

If you want to know your BMI ratio, check out our BMI calculator.

5 Health Risks of High Sugar Intake

Top view of different kinds of sugar

An increased risk of low hormone levels is not the only health concern caused by high sugar intake.

Let’s take a look.

1. Weakens Immunity

If your diet consists of high sugar-sweetened beverage intake or loads of refined carbs, you may be suppressing your immune system.

White blood cells need vitamin C to help ward off any threats, and sugar can interfere with vitamin C absorption [5].

2. Heightens Inflammation

Inflammation is vital in the body’s healing process, but chronic inflammation can lead to many health problems [6].

These include:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

Sugar can promote the production of free fatty acids in the liver, which may initiate an inflammatory response.

A 2014 study shows that individuals who reduced their sugar intake also reduced the inflammatory markers in their blood [7].

“Added sugar consumption increases heart disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and inflammation. High-sugar diets have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.”

- Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

3. Increases the Risk of Chronic Diseases  

A man with aching knee

Research is plentiful on the direct link between added sugars and chronic diseases, particularly hypertension, diabetes, and obesity [8].

The good news is that research supports that reducing sugar intake can proportionally reduce the risk of chronic diseases; the more sugar you eliminate, the more significant reduction in risk [9].

4. Ages Your Skin Prematurely

Age is not just a number, but harmful compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), created when sugar in the blood attaches to protein, can affect your appearance.

While AGEs are a part of the normal aging process, excessive levels can lead to premature wrinkles and other aging-related skin properties [10].

5. Harms the Liver

Excessive glucose ingestion can result in a build-up of fatty acids in the liver, which can damage your liver similarly to alcohol and lead to a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

This condition is usually not accompanied by any symptoms, but occasionally individuals report fatigue and pain in the upper right abdomen [11].

Do You Have to Refrain From It?

Sugar cubes in bowl and powder

For individuals with compromised glucose tolerance, avoiding as much sugar as possible, mainly the added sugars listed earlier in the article, is in their best interest.

It is quite hard to eliminate all sugar because it naturally occurs in many foods like fruit and veggies.

Individuals with normal glucose tolerance should avoid too much fructose and other added sugars, but this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the occasional sweet or sugary drink.

If you plan to cut the sugar in your diet and boost T levels naturally, check out our guide below:

FAQs

How Much Does Sugar Lower Testosterone?

Sugar can lower testosterone by as much as 25% for up to two hours after consumption. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital also reported the abrupt drop is not dependent on BMI or glucose tolerance [2].

How Long Does It Take for Sugar to Reduce Testosterone?

Sugar can reduce testosterone immediately, causing a decrease that lasts a couple of hours. Sugar can also cause long-term effects on testosterone by causing increased body fat and impaired insulin sensitivity.

Can Too Much Sugar Affect Athletic Performance?

Too much sugar can affect athletic performance, which is why the type of sugar and timing of consumption is essential. For example, a sugar-heavy meal your body doesn’t have time to digest can sabotage performance.

Does Cutting Out Sugar Boost Testosterone?

When my male and female clients cut sugar, they often see improvement in testosterone levels, helping them combat fatigue and weight gain, regain muscle mass and bone density, recover focus, and improve sex drive and performance.

The results are even more remarkable when they cut out sugar and incorporate a natural testosterone-boosting supplement in the mix.

If you are struggling with these challenging symptoms of low testosterone, eliminate sugar and add one of these T-boosters that made the list after passing our stringent testing.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18319314/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22804876/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15713702/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955331/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400679/
  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24418247/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5421126/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5577881/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583887/
  11. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354567
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