Vitamin D & Testosterone: The Connection

Vitamin D
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
24th August 2020

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Vitamin D is a key micronutrient that the body can most easily obtain through exposure to sunlight, but it’s also available in a small number of foods.
Scientific studies have demonstrated a link between vitamin D and testosterone, the important male sex hormone. It seems that men who get enough vitamin D are more likely to have healthy testosterone levels.

Testosterone has an essential role in your body. This male sex hormone is not only responsible for those typically “masculine” traits like body hair and a deep voice, but also for strong bones, muscles, and controlling fat. It even affects your mental health and energy levels – not to mention your sex drive!

Because testosterone is so important, having low testosterone levels can have a negative impact on your body. It can result in brittle bones, weaker muscles, and loss of libido, among other symptoms. 

Many men want to boost their testosterone levels in a natural way, particularly if their T-levels aren’t considered low enough for testosterone replacement therapy. One nutrient that is connected to increased testosterone production is vitamin D, but what’s the evidence behind this link? 

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a micronutrient that the body needs for healthy functioning. It’s necessary to help regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body, so you can maintain strong bones, teeth, and muscles. 

Healthy vitamin D levels have also been linked to improved cardiorespiratory fitness – that is, the ability of your heart and lungs to supply oxygen to your muscles during exercise. Moreover, as we’ll explore below, studies have demonstrated a connection between vitamin D and men’s testosterone levels. 

The thing is, most adults in the northern hemisphere, including the UK, simply don’t get enough vitamin D. Why? Because by far the best source of vitamin D is: sunlight. During the winter months, we don’t get exposed to sufficient sunlight to supply our vitamin D needs. And many of us still don’t spend enough time outside in the summer to get enough vitamin D.

So, could getting out in the sun help with low T-levels? Does vitamin D boost testosterone? Let’s take a look.

Does Vitamin D Increase Testosterone? The Evidence

Several studies have demonstrated a very positive link between vitamin D and testosterone.

One 2010 study of 2299 men found that men with sufficient levels of vitamin D had “significantly higher levels of testosterone”. The researchers discovered that the participants’ peak levels of both vitamin D and testosterone occurred in August, when the most sunlight was available.

In another 2011 study, 200 healthy but overweight men undergoing a weight-loss programme were given either a daily vitamin D supplement or a placebo for a year. The group taking the supplements demonstrated a significant increase in vitamin D, and in total and free testosterone.

Therefore, if you have low testosterone and low vitamin D levels, there could be a connection. Let’s take a look at the best ways to boost your vitamin D.

Boosting your Vitamin D from Sunlight

The best way to increase your vitamin D levels is: go outside! This will allow your body to create vitamin D when the sunlight hits your skin. Take a walk, go for a run, or enjoy a game of tennis on an outdoor court. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, but you should show at least some bare skin (without sunscreen): hands, arms, or lower legs on display would be fine.

Of course, you should make sure you protect your skin before it starts to burn – by covering up or applying sunscreen in good time. There’s no recommended period that you should spend outside in order to get enough vitamin D. However, if you have darker skin, you’ll need to stay outside longer to make the same amount of vitamin D as a lighter skinned guy.

Exercising in the sunshine is a double win for your testosterone levels, as – along with vitamin D – improving your fitness is known to have a positive effect on testosterone. The authors of a 2018 study involving 87 erectile dysfunction patients suggest that testosterone levels can be increased through aerobic exercise that improves cardiorespiratory fitness.

Foods for Vitamin D

There are a few different food sources of vitamin D, but they don’t seem to provide enough of the vitamin to keep us going over the winter months. One 1997 study of French adults found that participants who lived in an urban environment didn’t get sufficient vitamin D from their diet alone between November and April.

The best dietary sources of vitamin D are:

  • Red meat
  • Liver
  • Oily fish
  • Eggs (only the yolk)
  • Fortified foods (fat spreads, such as margarine, and some breakfast cereals)

Vitamin D Supplements

As most people in the UK don’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight, the NHS recommends that all adults consider taking a supplement of 10 μg (micrograms) vitamin D per day. This is enough to give most people the vitamin D they need to stay healthy, and it should help keep your testosterone levels topped up.

Taking more than 100 μg vitamin D per day isn’t recommended. As it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, it is stored in the body and can build up over time. This can lead to hypercalcaemia, where the body absorbs too much calcium, resulting in damage to the kidneys and heart.

If you have a pre-existing health condition, you may want to seek medical advice before supplementing with vitamin D. This is because vitamin D supplements can interact with some medications, including treatments for diabetes, blood pressure drugs, and calcium supplements.

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Key Takeaways…

Your body absolutely needs vitamin D to stay healthy, and the evidence suggests that getting enough vitamin D will help maintain your testosterone levels too. 

So head outside for some sunshine and exercise when you can, and consider a vitamin D supplement to keep you topped up – especially in the winter months.

References

  1. European Society of Cardiology – Vitamin D levels in the blood linked to cardiorespiratory fitness: https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/vitamin-d-levels-in-the-blood-linked-to-cardiorespiratory-fitness

  2. E WehrS PilzB O BoehmW MärzB Obermayer-Pietsch (2010). Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20050857

  3. S PilzS FrischH KoertkeJ KuhnJ DreierB Obermayer-PietschE WehrA Zittermann (2011). Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195

  4. NHS – How to get vitamin D from sunlight: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-get-vitamin-d-from-sunlight/

  5. Jeong Kyun Yeo, Seung Ik Cho, Sun Gu Park, Seok Jo, Jeong Ku Ha, Jeong Woo Lee, Sung Yong Cho, and Min Gu Park(2018). Which Exercise Is Better for Increasing Serum Testosterone Levels in Patients with Erectile Dysfunction?:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5924956/

  6. M C ChapuyP PreziosiM MaamerS ArnaudP GalanS HercbergP J Meunier (1997). Prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in an adult normal population: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9425501

  7. NHS – Vitamin D: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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