If you are low in testosterone—or feel like you might be—it can be tempting to look for a vitamin or other supplement that can help. Just one internet search and you’ll find pages of results with suggestions.
The problem is that there’s not a lot of high-quality scientific evidence that supports particular vitamins and minerals as being an effective way to boost testosterone, says Dr. Desai.
Vitamin D is an important fat-soluble vitamin present in certain foods and dietary supplements, and is also produced within the body after exposure from ultraviolet rays from the sun.
Some research shows a link between vitamin D deficiency and reduced testosterone. In one small study of overweight men undergoing a weight reduction program, those who received 3,332 IU of vitamin D daily for a year saw a significant increase in testosterone levels compared to those who did not supplement with vitamin D.
Given that the daily recommended dose of vitamin D for most adults is 600 IU, Dr. Desai cautions that not everyone hoping to boost their testosterone levels should start taking a dose of 3,000 IU. “You need monitoring if you’re going to take that high of a dosage,” he says. “The concern is that toxicity can build up and lead to side effects such as bone pain, hypercalcemia and kidney stones.” But if your vitamin D level is low, it may be helpful to supplement, and experts note the most effective form of supplementation is vitamin D3.
Research has also found a link between the essential mineral zinc and testosterone levels. A study in the Journal of Exercise Physiology found that when a small group of college football players took 30 milligrams of zinc a day (along with magnesium and vitamin B-6) they increased their testosterone levels. However, this is about three times the recommended daily allowance.
Note that this study was very small in size and on subjects who were engaging in intensive training—therefore, experts emphasize that the main take-home message here may be to have your zinc levels checked if your testosterone level is low and, if that level is low, to work on increasing your zinc levels through supplementation or diet.
“Zinc has some promise, but it can cause side effects and interact with medications you may be taking,” says Dr. Desai. Instead of supplementation, you can also get zinc from foods such as:
- Meats (beef, chicken, pork)
- Fortified cereals