Diets Characterized by Pro-Inflammatory Foods Linked to Low Testosterone in Men

April 23, 2021
Patrick Campbell

An analysis of dietary patterns from more than 4000 men in NHANES suggests a diet with a greater intake of inflammatory foods was associated with a nearly 30% increase in odds of developing testosterone deficiency.

Having a diet characterized by increased intake of pro-inflammatory foods could place men at risk of developing a testosterone deficiency, according to a new study.

The study, which assessed dietary behaviors of more than 4000 men, found men whose diets had the highest dietary inflammatory index rating had 29.6% greater odds of testosterone deficiency than those with the lowest index rating.

"Our results suggest men who eat a pro-inflammatory diet, particularly those who are obese, are more likely to have testosterone deficiency," study investigators noted, in a statement. "Since men with obesity likely already experience chronic inflammation, physicians should be aware of contributing factors, like diet, that could likely worsen this inflammation and contribute to the risk of other health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease."

Spurred by an interest in a greater understanding of how dietary choices impact overall health, a team of investigators from the West China Hospital of Sichuan University sought to assess associations between consumption of inflammatory foods and sex hormones in men. With this in mind, investigators designed their study to use data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) related to male patients aged 20 years and older.

As part of the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 NHANES, respondents provided information related to 24-hour dietary intake history and also underwent serum sex hormone testing. Excluding patients without this information, investigators identified a cohort of 4,151 patients for inclusion in their analysis. Additionally, use of NHANES provided investigators with information related to age, race, energy, smoking status, education level, BMI, and time of venipuncture, which were used as covariates in adjusted analyses.

For the purpose of analysis, investigators divided patients into tertiles based on ranking using the Dietary Inflammatory Index score. Among the overall study cohort, Dietary Inflammatory Index scores ranged from -5.05 to 5.48 and the mean total testosterone was 419.30±176.27 ng/dL.

Overall, 25.7% of men included in the study met the criterion for having testosterone deficiency. Compared to their counterparts in the lowest tertile, men in the highest tertile had a lower mean total testosterone (410.42±_171.97 vs 422.71_±75.69, P <0.001). Investigators also noted 41.88% of patients with obesity were in the tertile defined by highest Dietary Inflammatory Index scores.

Further analysis indicated each unit increased in Dietary Inflammatory Index was related to 4.0% greater odds of testosterone deficiency. In fully-adjusted models, those in the tertile associated with the greatest Dietary Inflammatory Index score had 29.6% (95% CI, 3.1-63.0; P=.025) greater odds of testosterone deficiency than those in the lowest tertile. Of note, when assessing patients with obesity among the highest tertile, investigators found the odds of testosterone deficiency were nearly 60% greater than those with obesity in a lower tertile.

In interaction tests, investigators found no significant effect of BMI on the associations between Dietary Inflammatory Index and testosterone deficiency and all sex hormone parameters.

This study, “The Association between Dietary Inflammatory Index and Sex Hormones among Men in the United States,” was published in The Journal of Urology.