Can natural antioxidants delay age-related decline in male testosterone production?

Can natural antioxidants delay age-related decline in male testosterone production?

As men age, testosterone levels decline. This natural decrease, starting around the 30s at a rate of roughly 1% per year, can impact various aspects of health, including muscle mass, bone density, sexual function, energy levels and overall well-being. Now, a recent review published in the journal Nutrients has found that natural antioxidants might hold the key to slow down this decline.

Researchers at the Université de Moncton in Canada reviewed the use of natural polyphenolic compounds to enhance testosterone production and prevent age-related hypogonadism in aging males. Male hypogonadism is characterized by lower-than-normal production of testosterone by the testes, which may result in decreased sperm production. Testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, is produced by the Leydig cells of the testes. The Leydig cells utilize cholesterol as a precursor to manufacture testosterone through a complex series of enzymatic reactions. However, with age, the process becomes less efficient. Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein levels are reduced in Leydig cells, leading to a reduction in mitochondrial cholesterol import and a decline in androgen production.

Male hypogonadism is usually treated with testosterone replacement therapy. However, this has undesirable side effects, including decreased fertility. At the same time, low testosterone levels have been associated with cognitive decline, increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and symptoms of depression. Maintaining adequate testosterone levels is important for overall health and well-being, and this is where natural antioxidants come in. This review, published in June 2024, suggests that “natural antioxidants such as polyphenolic compounds from fruits and vegetables may promote optimal testosterone production and delay symptoms associated with late-onset hypogonadism in aging males”.

The review lists a number of natural antioxidants that contribute to optimal androgen production:

  1. Flavonoids have been associated with a number of health benefits, including the prevention of cancer, reducing the risk of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, and delaying age-related symptoms.
    1. Flavones might activate genes involved in testosterone production in testicular cells but this doesn’t guarantee a direct boost in testosterone itself.
    2. Isoflavones in high concentration may reduce steroidogenesis in Leydig cells. Some studies suggest isoflavones lower testosterone levels, but others indicate there is no significant effect.
    3. Flavonols, found in berries, apples, onions, broccoli and tea, have been well documented for their ability to enhance steroidogenesis and testicular function, and this review further affirms this.
    4. Flavanones, found in grapefruits, are promising natural antioxidants for limiting the decline in androgen levels in response to endocrine disruptors and possibly aging.
    5. Catechins, found in apples, red wine, and tea can have contradictory effects on plasma testosterone levels and require further research.
    6. Anthocyanidins may enhance testosterone production by Leydig cells via their antioxidant capacities.
  2. Hydroxycinnamic acid phenethyl ester derivatives can enhance androgen production by improving the expression of steroidogenesis-related genes in Leydig cells.
  3. Resveratrol and gigantol enhance spermatogenesis, testosterone production and sperm quality and have great potential for preventing age-related declines in androgen production in men.

Dietary strategies to address hypogonadism

While research on natural antioxidants and their relationship to reproductive health is still evolving, existing studies suggest that incorporating a diet rich in antioxidant-rich foods alongside healthy lifestyle practices can be a proactive approach for men looking to support optimal testosterone levels as they age. This approach could be a great addition to your patients’ fertility toolkit.

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