We hear a lot in the media about how men should be worried about low testosterone levels, the symptoms that are attributed to them, and how they should consider taking testosterone replacement therapy to address those symptoms. Yet there are alternatives to this treatment approach, which is really supposed to be limited to men with diagnosed hypogonadism. So then one of the questions becomes, are testosterone supplements effective as an alternative?
What are testosterone supplements?
Unlike testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which provides individuals with the hormone directly, testosterone supplements, which are sometimes referred to as testosterone boosters, work by increasing testosterone or related hormones. In some cases, they prevent testosterone from being transformed into estrogen. In this latter case, prevention of the conversion helps maintain T levels.
Natural testosterone supplements
Numerous herbs and nutrients have been shown to be effective as testosterone supplements. Here are those that have provided some positive research results.
This natural amino acid has been shown to boost testosterone levels by increasing the amount of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. Both of these hormones have an impact on testosterone levels.
Other research has suggested the amino acid may play boost testosterone in certain groups of men but not others. An Australian team noted that while d-aspartic acid was associated with increases in total testosterone, it did not result in changes in resistance-trained men.
You may be familiar with this herb because of its abilities to ease digestive problems, but it also can boost testosterone. Here are two studies that have demonstrated this benefit.
Sixty healthy men took either 600 mg of fenugreek or placebo daily for six week. At the study’s end, those who took fenugreek experienced an improvement in strength. The majority of men also showed increased sex drive (81% of the group), better sexual performance (66%), greater energy (81%), improved well-being (55%).
In another study of 30 college-age men, all the participants performed resistance training four times a week. Half of the men took fenugreek and the others took a placebo. Levels of both free and total testosterone rose in the fenugreek group but declined slightly in the placebo group. Men in the fenugreek group also showed a greater increase in strength and fat loss.
Ginger has a reputation for reducing inflammation and aiding digestion, but it also has an impact on testosterone. Both animal and human studies have demonstrated this ability.
For example, several animal studies have shown that ginger increased luteinizing hormone levels in diabetic rats and can nearly double T levels. Human study results showed a 17 percent increase in testosterone levels and a nearly twofold rise in luteinizing levels in 75 infertile men who took ginger daily for three months.
This herb has been used for centuries by several cultures to improve sex drive and enhance testosterone levels. Research concerning the ability of the herb to boost T levels is mixed, and much of the data comes from animal studies.
However, one three-month study of men with erectile dysfunction found that the herb improved self-reported ratings of sexual health and boosted testosterone levels by 16 percent. Thus far the research indicates that tribulus can help increase testosterone in individuals who have low T or impaired sexual function, but it does not seem to increase testosterone in individuals with normal levels.
A significant percentage of adults are deficient or low in vitamin D, which can have a significant impact on health. One of those effects is associated with testosterone levels. Research indicates that increasing your body’s levels of vitamin D can result in higher testosterone levels and improvements in associated symptoms.
In a year-long study of 65 men, half took 3,300 International Units of vitamin D daily, while the others took placebo. Vitamin D levels doubled in the vitamin D group and testosterone levels climbed about 20 percent when compared with the placebo group.
Zinc is a very active mineral, involved in more than 100 chemical processes. Although the relationship between zinc and testosterone is not fully understood, what experts have shown is that men who restrict zinc intake have lower testosterone levels than do healthy men. At the same time, men deficient in zinc who take supplements show a rise in T levels.
In a 2019 study appearing in Aging Male, researchers pointed out that “medicinal doses of zinc may increase total testosterone and improve sperm count,” even though “the current body of evidene does not suggest broad recommendations regarding the use of zinc for all types of hypogonadism.”
Are testosterone supplements effective?
There are arguments on both sides of this question. In a recent study from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, experts evaluated 150 testosterone supplements and reported that 90 percent claims to boost testosterone. However, less than 25 percent had data to support their claims.
Testosterone supplements that have scientific data to support their claims can be effective. Men need to look for products that provide such references and talk to a medical professional about how these supplements can best help them.
Clemesha CG et al. Testosterone boosting supplements composition and claims are not supported by the academic literature. World Journal of Men’s Health 2019 Jun 14; 37:e34
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Melville GW et al. The effects of d-aspartic acid supplementation in resistance-trained men over a three month training period: a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One 2017 Aug 25; 12(8): e0182630
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Santos HO, Teixeira FJ. Use of medicinal doses of zinc as a safe and efficient coadjutant in the treatment of male hypogonadism. Aging Male 2019 Feb 15:1-10
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Wilborn C et al. Effects of a purported aromatase and 5a-reductase inhibitor on hormone profiles in college-age men. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Medicine 2010 Dec; 20(6): 457-65