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Testosterone and Cholesterol (Is There a Connection?)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Last updated: December 14, 2022

After a recent conversation with one of my fitness clients, I realized that many people still see cholesterol as an absolute enemy of health.

So, to demonstrate how important cholesterol is for normal hormonal production and bodybuilding in general, I decided to compile my knowledge, do some more research and review recent scientific papers with our physician.

After dealing with this topic for days, I discovered that cholesterol has an even tighter connection to testosterone than I and many of my colleagues previously thought.

Let’s dive in.

Quick Summary

  • Cholesterol is essential for testosterone production, but seems it’s a two-way street, as testosterone may also impact cholesterol production.
  • Very high cholesterol increases your cardiovascular risk and may even lead to life-threatening cardiovascular disease.
  • To keep cholesterol in the normal range and avoid possible heart issues, certain lifestyle choices like proper diet are highly recommended.

How Is Cholesterol Connected With Testosterone?

Doctor checking cholesterol and testosterone levels of patient

Cholesterol is connected with testosterone in two different ways. There seems to be mutual support - cholesterol is necessary for testosterone synthesis, while testosterone may impact cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol is an essential fatty (lipid) substance produced naturally in the liver, which circulates the body.

Total cholesterol is comprised of two types:

  • Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) - the ‘bad cholesterol’
  • High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) - the ‘good cholesterol’

Nevertheless, this fat-like substance is necessary for many cell processes and body functions (synthesis of vitamin D, fat-dissolving bile, and hormones, etc.) [1].

How Cholesterol Impacts Testosterone

A man holding his body from pain

Cholesterol plays an important part in testosterone synthesis. It gets transferred from the blood into the part of the testicles responsible for T-production (Leydig cells - where 95% of endogenous testosterone is produced in males), and acts as the building block of the male hormone [2].

And that’s what many veteran gym-goers know - you need to eat those fats to get proper cholesterol production and secure stable testosterone levels (high-cholesterol diet).

Still, you should watch the amount and the different types of dietary fat you consume since they could ramp up cholesterol production beyond healthy levels, which can cause severe heart disease.

More on that later.

First, let’s talk about what most bodybuilders probably don’t know about the cholesterol-testosterone connection.

How Testosterone Impacts Cholesterol

Doctor using stethoscope to check up patient

A 2013 study showed that men with testosterone deficiency on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) showed a significant decrease in previously high cholesterol (serum cholesterol levels) over the course of the 5-year study [3].

A bit older study from 1996 evaluated the effects of increasing testosterone levels on cholesterol.

The study showed that reversing low testosterone levels lead to a significant cholesterol decrease.

Male participants went from an average of 225 mg/dl of total cholesterol to 118 mg/dl [4].

Another study revealed that men undergoing low testosterone treatment experienced a decrease in their cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) [5].

So, to fully understand and prove these correlations, more research is needed as the mechanism through which high or low testosterone levels affect cholesterol isn’t entirely clear.

Nevertheless, you should ensure that your serum testosterone and cholesterol levels are within normal ranges, as disbalance could lead to many health problems.

How Can Cholesterol Levels Affect Health?

A blood sample to measure cholesterol

High cholesterol levels can affect health negatively as the buildup of too much cholesterol in the blood (particularly LDL type) may lead to atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a cardiovascular disease that may lead to heart attack or stroke [6].

High LDL cholesterol, known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, may lead to the formation of plaque inside the arterial walls which slowly builds up and bulges into the artery.

When that happens, the artery narrows and blood flow decreases, elevating blood pressure.

If a plaque in the coronary artery bursts, a blood clot forms, most likely leading to a heart attack.

The counterpart of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, usually has a much more benign effect as it takes LDL cholesterol and other fats (like triglycerides) from your blood to the liver to be broken down.

The most important thing here is that there are ways to lower your LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL levels, keeping the total cholesterol in the safe zone and decreasing the risk of heart disease.

How to Maintain Normal Levels?

Cholesterol clogging the blood flow

To maintain normal cholesterol levels, you must increase your fitness and nutrition.

However, if it runs in your family, you may require medication management as well.

As you read earlier, your goal with cholesterol should be balancing HDL and LDL - decreasing the former and increasing the latter.

How can you achieve that?

Diet

Diet concept using apple and measuring tape

To lower LDL cholesterol, you should avoid processed food since it’s usually full of trans-fats which may significantly increase its levels [7].

You should include sources of omega-3 fats (nuts and fish), and fiber-rich foods, as fiber (mostly soluble) will absorb bile acids and remove some of the cholesterol in bile.

You should also use spices like cinnamon, ginger, garlic, black pepper, coriander, or curcumin, as they may have an LDL-lowering effect [8].

Lastly, have more veggies in your diet since plant-based foods contain compounds such as sterols and stanols, which are also beneficial for reducing high cholesterol [9].

Exercise

Daily exercise may help you simultaneously lose weight and lower cholesterol, explicitly reducing your LDL levels and increasing your HDL levels.

To achieve this goal, try doing moderate physical activity five times a week for 30 minutes or vigorous aerobic exercise three times a week for 20 minutes.

To increase your exercise capacity and further decrease your high cholesterol, you should avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption [10].

FAQs

Best High Cholesterol Foods for Testosterone?

The best high-cholesterol foods for testosterone are eggs. They are a great source of good fats and vitamins, providing your body with not only cholesterol but also vitamin D and omega-3s, all of which aid in testosterone production.

Does Testosterone Therapy Lower Cholesterol?

Testosterone therapy could lower cholesterol, both HDL and LDL. However, more research needs to be done to confirm this effect since a few studies also indicate that testosterone therapy might negatively affect cholesterol.

Keep Your Hormones Optimized

Even though more studies need to be done to prove testosterone’s impact on cholesterol, activities that improve and increase testosterone production, like exercise, quality diet, good sleep, and stress management, also lead to better HDL and LDL levels.

I also advise my fitness clients to consider natural testosterone boosters if they are struggling with low T and the associated symptoms:

We’ve tested most of the top supplements on the market to come up with these lists of the ones that proved to have the most potent effect on our client’s testosterone production.


References:

  1. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol
  2. https://doi.org/10.2741/1165
  3. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ijcp.12319
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8678922/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4527564/
  6. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol/atherosclerosis
  7. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3083808/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2596710/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110741/
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