High Cholesterol and Testosterone Levels
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
What's your first thought when you hear the word cholesterol?
You might think about the differences between high and low cholesterol. You might think about how cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease or cause you to gain weight. What about testosterone and cholesterol?
Most likely not. But they are both closely related, and in good ways as well as bad...
There are many other ways that testosterone and cholesterol can be linked.
You'll learn everything you need to about T-levels, cholesterol and more in the post below. Let's go!
- What is cholesterol
- Cholesterol, testosterone
- What is the effect of diet on cholesterol and testosterone levels?
- How to increase testosterone levels?
What is cholesterol?
In your bloodstream, you'll find a substance called cholesterol (C). The liver is responsible for the majority of cholesterol (around 80%) in your blood
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance found throughout your body's cells and blood.
While too much cholesterol may build up and lead to heart disease. Cholesterol sources include the liver as well as foods from animals (meat, egg yolks etc), with HDL ("good") cholesterol being predominant over LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
Your body uses cholesterol's fatty acids to build cell walls and keep tissues and organs healthy.
Lipids (fats) cannot circulate freely in your blood; instead, they must bind to other molecules for transport; when cholesterol binds with proteins it forms lipoprotein particles that carry cholesterol throughout the blood to wherever they're needed.
Your cells contain cholesterol molecules, but to move around your body efficiently they must be packaged into small protein-covered particles that travel through your blood. Together with another type of blood fat called triglycerides, these are known as lipoproteins.
Diet, genetic conditions and ageing are three primary sources of high blood cholesterol levels.
High triglycerides and cholesterol can contribute to atherosclerosis - where fatty deposits form on arterial walls blocking blood flow - leading to heart disease or other problems.
Receiving regular cholesterol checks and following a healthy eating plan are effective tools in combatting high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.
What is cholesterol used for in the body?
Despite the recent demonization, cholesterol is essential for many bodily processes. They include:
- Membrane formation - Cholesterol is an important structural component in animal cell membranes. Both build and maintain healthy membranes.
- Cell Signaling: It allows the cells to communicate and ensures proper body function.
- The brain is involved in the majority of functions and processes.
- It is a salt that helps to make bile acids, which help your digestive system and body breakdown fats.
- Hormone Production - Cholesterol is a precursor in hormone production, which includes testosterone. Below, you can read more about it.
These are only a few functions that cholesterol performs in the body. Why does cholesterol have such a poor reputation? You need to understand the types of cholesterol in your body.
What is Cholesterol Composed of?
Cholesterol forms lipoproteins with proteins to be transported through your bloodstream.
Composed of 27 carbon atoms, 46 hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, cholesterol cannot dissolve into water and must travel via protein conjugation in lipoproteins to move through blood circulation.
Though cholesterol does not appear naturally within prokaryotic membranes (bacteria and archaea), animal cells require it for protective layers that control what enters or leaves their cell.
Your cholesterol levels vary based on how your liver produces and processes cholesterol, what you eat, your health status and age.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts as well as limited processed meats, salt, sugar and saturated and trans fats is recommended to achieve maximum benefits from physical activity to increase HDL and decrease triglyceride levels.
Too much LDL cholesterol has been linked with atherosclerosis - the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries which restrict blood flow to both your heart and brain - potentially leading to heart attacks or strokes.
Different types of cholesterol
It has been mentioned that cholesterol is a type of steroid. This steroid belongs to the non-glyceride family of lipids.
Non-glyceride Lipids include:
Lipoproteins are important for your cholesterol.
Triglycerides (a type of blood fat) and cholesterol cannot move through the bloodstream on their own. Lipoproteins are formed when they need assistance.
You may be familiar with the LDL C (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL C (high-density lipoprotein), which are the main forms of cholesterol.
LDL C (Low-density Lipoprotein Cholesterol)
This is a 'bad cholesterol'. Low-density Lipoproteins (LDLs) are low in proteins but high in cholesterol.
A high level of LDL C can cause a build-up of fat and plaques on the walls and narrowing your blood vessels. This increases your cardiovascular risk, as the arteries are clogged.
Atherosclerosis is a cardiovascular disease that increases your risk for stroke, heart attacks, high blood tension, and other diseases.
A low LDL C level can be another symptom for the metabolic syndrome. The metabolic syndrome is a medical term that describes a condition characterized by obesity, hypertension (also called hypertension) and diabetes.
High-density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL C).
It is also known as "good" cholesterol. HDL C can be thought of as the antithesis to LDL C.
The high-density cholesterol lipoprotein contains more protein than cholesterol. HDL C carries cholesterol to the liver to be broken up. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Low levels of HDL C may indicate an issue. LDL C tends to have the opposite effect.
You may have heard the term "total cholesterol" if you've had a lipid test (or read an article about it).
The total cholesterol (TC) is also known as serum cholesterol and includes HDL, LDL as well as non-HDL forms.
You will receive an TC to HDL ratio when you get your check. This tells you what percentage of your TC you have deemed 'good.'
What is A Cholesterol Molecule?
Cholesterol is an intractable substance often linked with heart disease and other ailments, sparking thousands of articles in scientific journals and popular press.
Its complex biosynthetic pathway has also drawn considerable scientific inquiry and garnered several Nobel Prizes - yet despite all this study there still remain many mysteries about its movement within living cells.
This article describes a method that can uncover the atomic dynamics of cholesterol molecules within membranes at high resolution.
These results offer insight into their contributions to membrane structure, fluidity, and function.
The study of cholesterol in membranes can have far-reaching implications, from understanding lipid bilayer physics and how proteins bind, to increasing membrane packing density and fluidity across a range of temperatures.
Cholesterol's hydroxyl groups interact energetically with water molecules surrounding its bilayer as well as nonpolar head groups in other phospholipids/sphingolipids present within it - increasing packing density while altering fluidity across physiological temperature spectrums.
The cholesterol molecule contains a relatively smooth steroid nucleus while its hydrocarbon tail features protruding methyl groups on its surface, creating a bumpy surface with protruding methyl groups that interacts preferentially with proteins with undulated topologies, like the membrane protein that binds cholesterol.
Furthermore, cholesterol serves as the starting material for biosynthesis of many important hormones like estrogens and androgens (e.g. testosterone and cortisol), fat-soluble vitamins A D E K; liver is the primary site for cholesterol's production although adrenal glands, intestinal tract and reproductive organs may all contribute.
Is Cholesterol a Steroid?
Cholesterol is an important waxy substance needed by the body to build cells, synthesize certain vitamins and hormones, regulate vital functions, and maintain good health.
Unfortunately, too much cholesterol can pose serious health problems.
Thus it's vital that we consume adequate cholesterol-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes as well as low-fat dairy products and fish to achieve an ideal cholesterol balance in our bodies.
Furthermore, cutting back on saturated fat consumption is also recommended.
Corticosterone and prednisone, two steroid metabolites, may increase your levels of total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and other lipids like triglycerides.
If your blood cholesterol is too high, talk to your physician about medications or changing your diet to lower it.
Cellular cholesterol management requires an intricate network of enzymes for transport and metabolism.
Cholesterol that enters from plasma is esterified by proteins called SR-BI and SN-RII to form cholesteryl esters, which are then transported by endosomal pathways mediated by Rab 9 GTPase trafficking to mitochondrial intermembrane space via endosome-based trafficking pathways.
Tropic hormone stimulation of Leydig cells or LH in ovarian cells induces selective uptake of these cholesteryl esters which is essential for steroidogenesis or can even transport directly cellular destinations depending on where their use may be necessary.
Cholesterol and testosterone
Let's now look at the relationship between your testosterone and your cholesterol.
In the final phase of testosterone manufacturing, cholesterol is utilized. The hormone luteinizing hormonal triggers cells to turn cholesterol into testosterone.
Leydig cells and cholesterol
A 2018 review states that fetal Leydig cell production is high enough to produce high levels of androgen, (testosterone and androstenedione depending on the species), required for the differentiation of male genitalia.
Androgen production decreases with the loss of these cells and reaches a nadir postpartum.
The level of testosterone gradually increases with the development of adult Leydig cells from stem cells.
In adults, binding of luteinizing (LH) receptors on Leydig cells stimulates the production of cAMP, increasing the rate at which cholesterol is transported into the mitochondria.
The CYP11A1 is responsible for converting cholesterol to pregnenolone at the inner membrane of the mitochondria, and pregnenolone into testosterone by the mitochondria and smooth endoplasmic reticulum.
A protein complex containing the voltage-dependent anion channel and other mitochondrial or cytosolic protein is responsible for the translocation of cholesterol to the inner membrane of the mitochondria.
This complex is regulated by the steroidogenic acute regulator protein, which increases testosterone production and cholesterol movement across membranes. The 14-3-3g adaptor protein and the e adaptor protein serve as negative regulators for steroidogenesis.
They control the maximum amount of steroid produced. Many aging and younger men experience a decline in testosterone production, which can lead to changes in metabolism and quality of life.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy is widely used to raise serum testosterone levels in men with hypogonadal syndrome.
It is possible to increase serum levels of testosterone by Leydig cells stimulation, if you have a better understanding of the mechanisms that lead to testosterone formation.
The relationship between cholesterol on testosterone
Some studies report that testosterone or androgens can lower HDL C levels in men.
Some researchers report no correlation at all between HDL and testosterone.
In contrast, higher cholesterol levels have been associated with an increase of testosterone.
In one study, over 4,000 males were evaluated for an entire year. Men with higher HDL C levels had more testosterone. Many factors could be involved with the group that measured higher T levels.
A second study tracked nearly 300 men with Type 2 Diabetes. Testosterone levels were higher in those with higher HDL C.
A 2023 analysis that was adjusted for age, smoking, physical activity level, family income, race, education, diabetes, hypertension and body mass index, found that neither cholesterol intake nor serum total cholesterol concentrations were associated with total testosterone values.
As such, dietary cholesterol intake and TC level are not associated with total testosterone levels in men from the USA
Cholesterol, hypogonadism and TRT
Hypogonadism is associated with an increased risk of metabolic disorders and cardiovascular events.
The HDL composition in serum is a more accurate predictor of cardiovascular events than HDL counts.
The results of this study show that patients with hypogonadism also have unfavorable HDL profiles in addition to other dysmetabolic features.
The metabolic problems and HDL composition are not improved by testosterone replacement.
To better understand the cardiovascular effects, mechanistic studies should be conducted to better understand HDL compositions that are not favorable in hypogonadism.
Overall, the research isn’t conclusive. Therefore, it's hard to say what effect testosterone has on cholesterol. This is good news, as it seems that the correlation between cholesterol and testosterone may not be strong.
It is therefore unlikely that testosterone treatment or supplementation will increase cardiovascular risks in men by negatively impacting cholesterol levels. Decreased cholesterol will not negatively affect your testosterone.
How to increase testosterone levels?
You may be reading this article because you are concerned with low testosterone. You might have noticed symptoms like:
- Muscle weakness and lack of strength
- Fatigue, tiredness and fatigue
- Sexual dysfunction, libido issues and other sexual problems
- Depression, anxiety and irritability are all symptoms of emotional problems.
- Lethargy and sleepiness
There are many natural and safe ways to boost your testosterone.
Military Muscle, a natural testosterone booster, combines many healthy ingredients that boost your levels of T. These ingredients will not increase your non-HDL levels.
The ingredients that are 100% natural include:
- Zinc has a well-known effect on sexual function.
- Fenureek can also be used to boost libido and energy.
- Vitamin D is essential for testosterone production, as we have already mentioned.
Cholesterol is an organic fat produced in your body that circulates throughout your bloodstream, potentially leading to heart disease or other serious health concerns.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), more commonly referred to as "bad" cholesterol, is one of the two major forms of cholesterol produced in your body and circulated through your system.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), also called protective cholesterol, works to remove LDL from circulation by acting like an antagonist and remove it.
Testosterone is a male sex hormone produced in your testicles that affects your libido, muscle mass and bone density - while potentially protecting against coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular conditions.
Studies have identified an apparent link between testosterone levels and cholesterol levels - however its cause remains elusive.
Either decreased testosterone may contribute to higher cholesterol levels, or it could simply be another health issue that results in both lower testosterone and increased cholesterol.
Researchers conducted a study which demonstrated that decreased testosterone levels are linked with higher LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels among healthy males aged 20-50 years, yet this relationship does not appear among older men who take testosterone supplements.