Men who eat a plant-based diet have similar testosterone levels as meat-eaters, according to a new study.
The study, published this May in the World Journal of Urology, examined data about the serum testosterone (testosterone levels in the blood) of 191 cisgender male participants. Researchers considered testosterone levels below 300 ng/dL as a testosterone deficiency (Low-T), the level recognized by the American Urology Association.
“We found that a plant-based diet was associated with normal testosterone levels, levels that are the same as occur in men who eat a traditional diet that includes more meat,” said Ranjith Ramasamy, M.D., co-author of the study. Ramasamy is the Director of Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery. Ramasamy is also an associate professor in the Department of Urology at the University of Miami.
‘We Found No Difference’
The research data came from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). It noted details about both the participants’ diets and their testosterone levels from blood samples. The researchers then indexed the reported diets of the participants. They categorized them as a plant-based diet and healthful plant-based foods. The former could include plant-based foods that are not healthy, such as chips.
Interestingly, added co-author Manish Kuchakulla, “Whether a man ate a traditional diet with lots of animal foods, a healthy plant-based diet, or a less healthy plant-based diet, simply did not matter. We found no difference.”
This research could help allay the belief that normal testosterone levels are maintained by eating animal products. It could also dispel the stereotype that “real men eat meat.” Testosterone is the male sex hormone, although females also have it in smaller amounts. It’s associated with muscle mass, sperm production, and libido. So it has a strong cultural association with what some people consider “masculine” or “manly.”
It’s also worth noting that soy, which is common in plant-based diets, has had a reputation for lowering testosterone as well. Soy foods do contain a compound called phytoestrogen, that mimics estrogen in the body. However, a review of 15 studies in 2009 found that soy protein had no effect on testosterone levels in men.