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Inflammatory diet linked to testosterone deficiency in men

Consuming a diet high in pro-inflammatory foods – including foods that contain refined carbohydrates and sugar as well as polyunsaturated fats – may be associated with increased odds of developing testosterone deficiency among men, suggests a study in The Journal of Urology®.

The risk of testosterone deficiency is greatest in men who are obese and consume a refined diet that scores high on the dietary inflammatory index (DII), according to the new research by Qiu Shi, MD, Zhang Chichen, MD, and colleagues of West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. “While these findings do not prove causation, they do support previous research suggesting a pro-inflammatory diet can contribute to testosterone deficiency, among other potentially debilitating health issues,” Doctors Qiu and Zhang comment.

Human and animal studies have linked testosterone deficiency with increased levels of inflammation in the body. Men with low testosterone have higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines: small proteins released by cells during injury, infection or in response to inflammatory factors in the environment. The DII has emerged as a tool for assessing the inflammatory potential of a person’s diet, particularly in relation to other markers of health.

The researchers studied the association between the DII and testosterone deficiency in 4,151 men from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, all of whom completed a 24-hour dietary interview and underwent sex hormone testing. Each participant’s DII was calculated based on the dietary history interview.

Calculated DII scores ranged from +5.05 (most anti-inflammatory) to +5.48 (most pro-inflammatory). Average total testosterone level was 410.42 ng/dL in men with the most pro-inflammatory diet versus 422.71 ng/dL in those with the most anti-inflammatory diet. Overall, about 26% of the men had testosterone deficiency.

For men with the most pro-inflammatory diet, the odds of testosterone deficiency were about 30% higher compared to men with the most anti-inflammatory diet. The associations remained significant after adjustment for other characteristics, including body mass index and smoking.

In a fully adjusted analysis, the risk of testosterone deficiency was greatest in men who were obese and had a higher DII. For this group, the odds of testosterone deficiency were nearly 60% higher compared to men with obesity who had a lower DII.

Paper: The Association between Dietary Inflammatory Index and Sex Hormones among Men in the United States. The Journal of Urology; https://doi.org/10.1097/JU.0000000000001703

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