The Good, the Bad and the Misinformed: How a Misunderstanding of “Bad Fats” Could Be Affecting Your Testosterone Levels
If you’ve been an observer of health trends for any amount of time, you’ve probably seen more than a few diet fads come and go.
There was the Four-Hour Diet, the Master Cleanse, the Blood Type Diet–even something called the Cabbage Soup Diet.
People consulted Dr. Atkins and Dr. Ornish and countless other actual doctors–as well as those of the quack persuasion–to find out what they should and shouldn’t eat.
They traveled first to Scarsdale and then to South Beach to learn about dieting.
Then they traveled back in time and got all caveman on the Paleo Diet.
But as diet fads come and go, one stubborn myth never seems to fall out of fashion: that eating fats equals getting fat.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Saturated Fat and Testosterone
In fact, fat is an essential component of our diet, particularly for men who want to maintain healthy testosterone levels.
Generally speaking there are two types of fat, saturated fats–the kind that are solid at room temperature like butter and coconut oil–and unsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature–think olive oil.
And although saturated fat has sometimes been labeled “bad fat,” this too has been proven to be a gross oversimplification.
In fact, more and more research is showing that fears of saturated fats being the root cause of heart attacks and high cholesterol levels are unfounded. Highly processed fats like trans-fats and hydrogenated fats such as those found in margarine and fryer oil are the more likely culprit. 
Cholesterol and Testosterone
And remember cholesterol? Cholesterol was the boogeyman of the health industry for many decades. But it is actually a vital component for hormone production, meaning testosterone and estrogen, and you need to eat fat in order to get the cholesterol necessary to maintain your testosterone. Men who get less than 20 percent of their dietary needs from fats have been found to have consistently lower testosterone levels. 
Saturated fat is also vital to Vitamin A and Vitamin D absorption, the latter of which has proven to be a key component to producing healthy testosterone levels in men . One study found that healthy men who supplemented with 3332 I.U. of Vitamin D for a year ended up with over 25% more testosterone than those who took a placebo. 
How Much Do You Need?
Current guidelines say that a healthy diet should consist of 25-35 percent fats, of which 10 percent or so should be saturated fat. And as we’ve seen, especially for men who are at risk of lower testosterone, making sure you get enough fats and especially saturated fats in your diet is essential.
Not All Saturated Fats Are Equal
Keep in mind too that not all saturated fats are created equal. Sources like red meat, pork, butter, cheese, eggs and pizza, as well as pre-packaged snacks like crackers, chips and cookies are where most Americans get most of their saturated fats.
But when it comes to pre-packaged snacks and things like pizza, you’re also likely to be getting a high dosage of trans-fats as well, which is not a good thing.
However, tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm oil are a healthy alternative source for saturated fats.
Unsaturated Fats Are Important Too
But don’t forget about unsaturated fats too. Fats of all kinds are vital to maintaining energy, and exercise is of course another key component of maintaining solid testosterone levels. A diet that has generous helpings of nuts, fatty fish, olives and olive oil can help keep you functioning at optimal levels.
As with all things, balance would appear to be the key component to keeping your body running smoothly. Any diet that suggests you cut out fat altogether or even radically reduce it is probably not the healthiest thing you could do for yourself.
A sensible diet and exercise program that maintains a balance of all the macronutrients that humans have evolved to consume over the course of hundreds of thousands of years is likely a better choice than some fad diet that will disappear in a few months.
This is especially true when it comes to maintaining healthy levels of testosterone–sensible amounts of fats and especially saturated fats are vital.
Your body will thank you–and no, eating fats won’t make you fat!
*Editor’s note: Stay away from vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fat or PUFA
This includes but not necessarily limited to:
- Canola Oil
- Corn Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Soybean Oil
- Sunflower Oil
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- Am J Clin Nutr, 1996 Dec,64(6):850-5, “Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study”. – Link
- Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2010 Aug;73(2):243-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2265.2009.03777.x. Epub 2009 Dec 29. Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men. – Link
- Horm Metab Res. 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1269854. Epub 2010 Dec 10. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. – Link