Vitamin E and Testosterone: How Essential are Tocopherols and Tocotrienols for Male Health and Hormone Optimization
vitamin E is a blanket term for a group of compounds called tocopherols and tocotrienols. These compounds occur naturally in various foods and are stored within the human body.
Most notably, the fat-soluble vitamin E is known for its antioxidative effects, but there are certainly many other interesting applications to this micronutrient, one being that it can significantly increase testosterone levels and improve overall health.
The different types of vitamin E include;
- Tocopherols Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta (α, β, γ, δ).
- Tocotrienols Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta (α, β, γ, δ).
- d-alpha-tocopheryl succinate, designed to be water-soluble.
What makes them different is that the tocopherol molecules have a long tail with no double bonds, whereas tocotrienol molecules have a short tail with 3 double bonds. The difference between α, β, γ, and δ-tocopherols and tocotrienols is determined by the placement and amount of methyl rings in the structure.
all of the eight tocopherols and tocotreniols occur naturally in a variety of foods, whereas d-alpha-tocopheryl succinate is man-made and often used in food production to extend shelf-life.
Vitamin E and Testosterone Levels
Tocopherols were discovered nearly 100 years ago for being key micronutrients to prevent fetal resorption of cells and tissue. Being the fifth essential vitamin to be discovered, it was named “vitamin E”.
It took several years from that until vitamin E was properly labeled into different forms of tocopherols and tocotrienols, and its role in health was more closely researched. In the 30’s vitamin E was identified as antiestrogenic compound and generally used for treating blood clots, infertility, diabetes, and connective tissue abnormalities.
From the first animal studies, it became obvious that this vitamin had a close relationship with the reproductive system, as it was found to be vitally important in maintaining the fertility of both male and female research animals. Later on more studies showed how rats made deficient in vitamin E saw significant suppression of testosterone production and testicular activity.
Vitamin E is a peroxyl radical scavenger that protects polyunsaturated fatty acids in membranes and lipoproteins. To put more simply, vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that prevents the formation of free radicals and prevents/reduces the damage caused by oxidative stress in cells and tissue.
The protective effect against lipid peroxidation might be one of the most important benefits of vitamin E to the modern man.
Our diets (and fat-tissue thanks to said diets) are rich in polyunsaturated fatty-acids (PUFAs), and PUFAs are prone to oxidation by light, heat, and oxygen due to their long double carbon chains.
This means that the more PUFA we eat and the more PUFA we store as fat, the more of this stuff prone to oxidation we have in our bodies. When the process of lipid peroxidation makes the PUFA in our bodies go “rancid”, the increased amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the oxidative damage in cells and tissue caused by the free radicals, increases the stress hormone cortisol and suppresses the male hormone testosterone.
This is likely the main reason why studies examining different types of diets and fatty-acids, show that the nutrient that is most potent in suppressing testosterone and DHT levels, is in fact; PUFA.
And this is where vitamin E steps in, as studies have shown it to prevent and lessen the effect of lipid peroxidation of PUFA, and therefore protect the body from the oxidative damage that would otherwise ensue (study, study, study).
After knowing the above, it doesn’t come as that big of a surprise that in the study of Umeda et al. 483mg alpha-tocopherol fed to humans – and 1,500mg of the same stuff fed to rodents – increased total, free, plasma, and tissue testosterone levels quite nicely.
Testosterone aside, there are some other hormonal benefits to vitamin E too, such as the fact that it’s an antagonist to the estrogen receptors and effectively reduces serum estrogen levels, while also suppressing prolactin levels and improving prostatic health without negatively affecting the enzyme 5-a reductase and DHT.
Conclusion on Vitamin E and Testosterone Levels
Looking at things from the hormonal perspective, vitamin E seems essential for men’s health, and obviously is something every man should keep an eye for.
The question is, how much should you take?
According to Dr. Peat, our requirements depend heavily on the amount of PUFA we eat (and of that which is stored in our tissue). The current RDA of vitamin E is set to a miniscule 15mg/day, which is unlikely to meet our modern day demands due to increased intake of PUFA.
If you look at the amounts from the study of Umeda et al. ~400mg of α-tocopherol was enough to nicely increase both free- and total-testosterone levels in men, but the rodents who received the human equivalent of 1200-1500mg saw even more impressive hormonal gains.
I personally prefer to get 500-2000mg from Thorne’s Ultimate-E (affiliate link), along with the vitamin E rich foods in my diet, whether its 500 or 2000mg depends largely on the amount of polyunsaturated fats I consume per given day.