Influence of diet on plasma steroids and sex hormone-binding globulin levels in adult men

J Steroid Biochem. 1989 Jun;32(6):829-33. doi: 10.1016/0022-4731(89)90459-7.


Several experimental studies have suggested that diet can alter the production and metabolism of steroids in men. The purpose of this study was to determine the levels of unconjugated steroids and steroid glucuronides as well as sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) among normal adult men who were either omnivorous or vegetarians. The participants were white volunteers ranging from 25-35 years of age and the blood samples were taken between 0900 h and 1000 h and between 1600 h and 1700 h for two consecutive days. No significant statistical change was found in plasma dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, testosterone, dihydrotestosterone and estradiol levels. Vegetarian group showed a higher levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) while the free androgen index (FAI; calculated by the ratio testosterone/SHBG) was lower in this group. Although the concentrations of androsterone glucuronide were higher in vegetarian group, the vegetarians had a 25-50% lower level of androstane-3 alpha, 17 beta-diol glucuronide and androstane-3 beta,17 beta-diol glucuronide. Our data further indicate that both, androstane-3 alpha,17 beta-diol glucuronide and androstane-3 beta,17 beta-diol glucuronide concentrations are significantly correlated with SHBG levels and with the FAI values. The increases in androstane-3 alpha,17 beta-diol glucuronide and androstane-3 beta,17 beta-diol glucuronide levels in the omnivorous group are probably a consequence of the elevation of the FAI. Our data suggest that in a vegetarian group, less testosterone is available for androgenic action.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / analogs & derivatives
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Diet*
  • Dihydrotestosterone / blood
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis*
  • Steroids / blood*
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Androgens
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Steroids
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Testosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Estradiol
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate