Did someone (maybe your doctor) tell you that drinking alcohol will lower your testosterone levels? Despite what many people think, doctors can be wrong, too. It's probably safe to assume that most physicians have good intentions when it comes to recommending lifestyle modifications to patients. However, the link between testosterone and alcoholic beverages may be a little more nuanced.
Just in case you didn't know...
Testosterone is a hormone. This hormone is especially important in men. It is primarily produced in the testicles and plays a critical role in the development of male reproductive tissues and secondary sexual characteristics (essentially puberty). Testosterone is also important for maintaining muscle mass, libido, bone density, and red blood cell production.
Testosterone levels are constantly fluctuating. Levels are higher and certain times of the day. Most importantly, testosterone levels begin to decline with age, for most men at some point in their 30's or 40's. Men with low testosterone levels are at increased risk of dying earlier, having heart issues, and living a reduced quality of life.
Read more about testosterone.
For the sake of this article, a reference to alcohol means ethanol - the kind of alcohol in beer, wine, and liquor. Although alcoholic beverages have been consumed for most of human history, modern society has placed a negative stigma on drinking alcohol in general - arguably with good reason.
So why does alcohol get so much negative press? Well, lots of reasons.
1. Approximately 4% of all cancers in the world are linked to the consumption of alcoholic beverages. (especially breast cancer and throat cancer)
2. Alcohol is known to cause osteopenia - weaker bones.
3. According to the NTHSA, about 32 people are killed daily in drunk-driving accidents.
4. Alcohol consumption is involved in approximately 20% of all suicide deaths.
5. People who are alcohol dependent are 3.7 times more likely to be depressed.
6. Those who misuse alcohol are at greater risk for liver disease.
That's just to name a few. However, there has been some research over the years that has alleged potential benefits of alcohol consumption. Some studies have correlated having 1-2 drinks per day with a reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
So, what about testosterone?
The Truth About Alcohol & Testosterone
The link between alcohol and testosterone was likely discovered in the 1970's. The Quarterly Journal on Studies of Alcohol published a paper entitled "Abnormal testosterone excretion in men alcoholics" in 1972. One of the earliest studies on alcohol and testosterone was published in Research Communications in Chemical Pathology and Pharmacology in 1979. The study was done in rats. (Are you imagining a scientist getting rats drunk, too?) The researchers concluded that alcohol impacted the testicles directly, resulting in a decrease in testosterone.
The early research merely highlights that medicine has recognized that testosterone has some negative effect on testosterone levels, but that doesn't appear to be the whole story.
According to a paper published in Expert Reviews in Endocrinology & Metabolism in March of 2023, the amount of alcohol consumed matters. The authors highlight that low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol actually increases testosterone levels in men. On the other hand, consuming large quantities of alcohol cause testosterone levels to decrease. The authors go on to say that excessive drinking, especially when chronic, is what causes testosterone levels to decrease.
Typically, low-to-moderate alcohol consumption means 1-2 drinks per day. So, any more than that may put a damper on those testosterone levels. On the other hand, it looks like having a couple of drinks with dinner could actually increase levels of testosterone. The result of higher testosterone levels typically is higher libido, more energy, and stronger bones, to name a few.
Here at Black Tie Health™, we offer preliminary men's health consultations via telehealth for only $99. During these consultations, we can discuss treatment options, write prescriptions, and order tests - all of it done online. We can also help you with information on which dietary supplements are likely to be best for your specific medical situation, as well as provide you with recommended dosages.
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Ellingboe J, Varanelli CC. Ethanol inhibits testosterone biosynthesis by direct action on Leydig cells. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol. 1979 Apr;24(1):87-102. PMID: 219455.
Maurel DB, Boisseau N, Benhamou CL, Jaffre C. Alcohol and bone: review of dose effects and mechanisms. Osteoporos Int. 2012 Jan;23(1):1-16. doi: 10.1007/s00198-011-1787-7. Epub 2011 Sep 17. PMID: 21927919.
Rumgay H, Murphy N, Ferrari P, Soerjomataram I. Alcohol and Cancer: Epidemiology and Biological Mechanisms. Nutrients. 2021 Sep 11;13(9):3173. doi: 10.3390/nu13093173. PMID: 34579050; PMCID: PMC8470184.
Smith SJ, Lopresti AL, Fairchild TJ. The effects of alcohol on testosterone synthesis in men: a review. Expert Rev Endocrinol Metab. 2023 Mar 7:1-12. doi: 10.1080/17446651.2023.2184797. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36880700.