Curcumin boosts testosterone level
A not even terribly high dose of curcumin – the principal bioactive ingredient in turmeric powder – causes a steep rise in the amount of testosterone in the blood of male rats. Researchers from Redeemer's University in Nigeria wrote about it in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
The Nigerians studied the joint effect of gallic acid – a substance present in tea and grapes – and curcumin on the testes. The structural formula of gallic acid is shown here. Gallic acid has a wide range of protective properties, but in high quantities it turns out to be an oxidant.
The researchers wondered whether high concentrations of gallic acid reduce the production of sperm and testosterone as a result of pro-oxidant effects – and if so, whether curcumin, which has a convincing antioxidant effect, can counteract these effects.
The Nigerians performed experiments with four groups of young male rats. For 30 days the rats were given either no active ingredients [Control], 100 mg gallic acid per kg bodyweight, 100 mg curcumin per kg bodyweight, or 100 mg gallic acid + 100 mg curcumin per kg bodyweight.
The researchers gave the animals the substances, mixed with corn oil, orally.
At the end of the 30 days, the sperm quality of the gallic-acid group had deteriorated, but that of the curcumin group had improved. In the rats that had been given both substances, the sperm quality had also improved, but less than it had in the curcumin group.
DSP = Daily Sperm Production.
The testosterone concentration in the blood of the gallic-acid group was 32 percent lower than in the control group. In the curcumin group the testosterone concentration in the blood was 257 percent higher than in the control group and in the combination group it was 184 percent higher.
The raised testosterone level was the consequence of heightened activity of enzymes such as 3-beta-HSD and 17-beta-HSD in the testes. These enzymes are involved in the biosynthesis of testosterone.
In the testes gallic acid reduced the concentration of glutathione [GSH], glutathione peroxidase [GSH-Px], catalase [CAT] and superoxide dismutase [SOD] compared with the control group. These are endogenous antioxidants.
Curcumin had precisely the opposite effect, and also reduced the concentration of malondialdehyde [MDA] [Structural formula shown on the right]. Malondialdehyde is formed when free radicals damage unsaturated fatty acids in membranes.
The researchers suspect that curcumin deactivates free radicals in the testes and that this helps the testes to function better.
"Based on our results, curcumin might be used as an alternative drug for the treatment of male infertility problems", the researchers write. "However, the exact mechanism of action and dose analysis need to be further investigated, and whether adding dietary curcumin will improve men's chances of fathering children remains to be determined."
If you consult tables and start to calculate, you'll see that it's difficult to ingest the kind amounts of 'pure' gallic acid, just from food, that would cause damage to your testes. But by taking supplements it's not so difficult to take in the amount of curcumin that would improve your testes functioning.
The human equivalent of the dose that the Nigerians tried out would be between 1 and 1.5 g curcumin per day. There are supplements on the market that would give you that amount in just a couple of capsules.
J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2014 Sep;143:49-60
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