Many men, and even women, are looking for ways to regulate their testosterone levels. Declining testosterone in men can lead to depression, weight gain, lower sperm counts, and more; men with diabetes or weight issues are more highly susceptible, making the symptoms compound with one another.
Pomegranate juice, a well known antioxidant food source, has been highly touted in health circles for its testosterone boosting benefits, and has even been included in a number of top-selling supplements. In this article I’ll review what the actual scientific literature has to say about the effects of pomegranate on testosterone.
✲ Though not many credible studies have been conducted, what data exists suggests that Pomegranate may increase testosterone.
✲ One key study among weight-lifters, however, contradicts these data.
✲ Positive results seem to stem from the antioxidants in Pomegranate, which some research indicates has testosterone boosting effects.
✲ Pomegranate does not seem to have any negative side effects.
Two main studies have shown strong correlation between parts of the pomegranate fruit and testosterone increases. Neither findings have been refuted, though neither study has been extensively replicated, that I could find. One important note, though, is that I found both studies had been cited by multiple other reputable studies. Both studies were randomized and controlled.
Perhaps the most-quoted and most-cited study on the subject was conducted quite a few years ago, though their methods were sound. It found that pomegranate juice increased testosterone in the saliva by 24% in men and women.
I took special note of the method of saliva testing. As I’ve noted in previous articles, saliva tests are the best reading for free testosterone, also called bioavailable testosterone. That’s because a serum, or blood, test grabs the number of all the testosterone in the system–much of which naturally attaches to protein structures in the blood. This is a natural function, but none of that attached testosterone is available for use by the body.
This human study indicates that pomegranate juice not only helps the body increase testosterone production, but that the hormone is more available for muscle building, sperm production, or mood regulation.
Perhaps the second most-cited study was actually conducted on laboratory rats, and studied the highly specific outcome of testicular health after pomegranate peel was introduced. (This specificity points to the reliability of the methods, with narrower focuses tending to come from more rigorous scientists.)
The study found that the test group had significantly higher testosterone and better overall testes health than the control group. This link was strong enough for the researchers to conclude that the testicular health was a direct outcome of the higher testosterone. We’ll explore the differences between pomegranate juice and peel below.
A trial was conducted and published in the highly respected Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that seems, at least on the surface, to contradict some of the previous data.
Their study took blood samples from nine elite weight lifters after they had taken pomegranate juice following a workout. Results showed significantly lower testosterone among the test group.
So does this mean there’s no reliable indication one way or the other? Not necessarily. The study also focused heavily on the possible relationship between pomegranate, testosterone, and a blood enzyme called homocysteine. Other data, however, showed that there is no correlation between homocysteine and testosterone. In addition to that, not all people are elite athletes, as this study intentionally used for participants.
A professional athlete will have differing responses to compounds like antioxidants, and their bodies already have differing baselines compared to normal people.
I include this study as a way of showing that not all headlines (“Study shows pomegranate lowers testosterone”) are representative of the real science going on underneath.
Researchers in this study did not themselves say that, and they did not indicate that their results should countermand the other data. In fact, they quote the two studies I mentioned above, multiple times.
Antioxidants and Testosterone
As discussed, pomegranates are a known source of powerful antioxidants, more so than green tea or red wine, according to one study. That same study, I should mention, explained that both the peel and the juice have the same catechins responsible for antioxidant benefits. Only the juice, however, has anthocyanins, a potent plant compound in its own right.
Now we go to a study that found significant increases in testosterone after participants took a mixture of antioxidants, including selenium, vitamins B6 and B12, L-Carnitine, L-Arginine, and glutathione–all of which are found in rich abundance in pomegranates.
Sometimes a compound isn’t extensively researched because there is no real basis to conduct studies. For instance, you’d be hard-pressed to find clinical trials exploring the link between drinking goat’s milk and growing a third arm.
In other cases, however, there is enough data already existing, or corroborating data of studies already conducted, that no further research is necessary. In this case, we have two foundational studies showing increased free testosterone in animals and humans. Then we have studies showing that antioxidants–the exact ones found in pomegranate–increase testosterone.
With that level of data, the correlation is clear. The only other note would be that the conflicting study may have actually been conducted to show some other correlations–is the effect lessened in men with already very high testosterone, or is the effect diminished post-workout? Without speaking to the researchers, we cannot know.
All we can determine is what the data shows–and in this case, it shows a clear relationship between pomegranate juice and peel and increased testosterone.