Saturday, April 14, 2012

White Tea & Testosterone

One of the first ever blog posts on this site briefly discussed the benefits of tea and catechins in tea.  And more recently an interesting study was published on the effects of tea and androgen metabolism (1).  This study determined the natural effect of various teas on the testosterone/epitestosterone ratio (T/E).  For those of you outside the regulated sporting leagues, this ratio is important to test for steroid use in athletes.  More specifically for testosterone use or any of it's precursors.  There are certainly other parameters to test for steroid use (read more here), and if you are an athlete you should note this information simply as a precautionary tale.  As an athlete you should adhere to the rules of your sport, and in general avoid steroids, and prohormones altogether.  For the rest of us non-participating athletes, legal alternatives to steroids such as prohormones are an extremely effective method of reaching our goals.  Whether they be body composition or strength based.
Let's move on...  One of the primary reasons this study made some noise in the anti-doping community is three-fold:
  1. White and green tea suppress testosterone glucuronidation via UGT2B17 enzyme inhibition.
  2. Inhibition of UGT2B17 may raise circulating levels of testosterone.
  3. Inhibition of UGT2B17 may alter the T/E ratio.
One thing to remember is that glucuronidation enzymes essentially breakdown steroid or prohormones into polar molecules that can more easily be excreted in urine (we discussed this extensively in the ForeRunner Labs - Frequently Asked Questions document).  Therefore to test athletes they look for abnormal T/E ratios after taking a sample of urine.  Anything greater than 4 to 1 is considered for further testing and review and potentially violates the rules or a WADA governed sporting organization.  For reference the every popular MMA fighter Overeem recently tested positive at a 14 to 1 ratio before his UFC Heavyweight fight.

What this all means is that an athlete who consumes a large amount of green or white tea (either drinking it or in supplement form), can potentially alter their T/E ratio and subsequently pass a urinanalysis test that they may not otherwise pass (inhibition of UGT2B17 does not effect epitestosterone).  This happens because the primary glucuronidation enzyme for testosterone is UGT2B17, so it cannot pass through the urine.

Naturally if this is not occurring we can assume the pharmacology of testosterone (or other steroid) has been altered.  And thus testosterone (or testosterone precursor) will have improved pharmacokinetics (bioavailability, area under the curve, Tmax, etc).  This is essentially point #2 above.  In fact the authors found that in vitro, testosterone glucuronidation was inhibited up to 30%.  There was a specific correlation with greater catechin content and greater glucuronidation inhibition, and subsequently white tea powder performed the best of the four teas tested.
Then entire point of this post is that for prohormone users this is a very useful tool.  By drinking or supplementing high catechin based green or white (especially) tea we can improve the pharmacokinetic properties of our prohormone.  Improving pharmacokinetic properties leads to improved results.  It should be noted that the researchers found that the teas were competitive inhibitors of the UGT2B17 enzyme.  Meaning the more soldiers you send into battle the more likely that army is to win.  Or in this case, the more testosterone or testosterone precursor you introduce into your system the more likely the other will be broken down (or saved) by UGT2B17 enzymes.

Like any published research piece there are of course study limitations.  In this case this was done in vitro rather then tested in humans.  Many speculate that green tea actually decreases testosterone in males because of the rat research that currently exists.  However if you look closely at the research you will find that it only tests the effects of green tea/catechins at the testicular level.  This essentially becomes meaningless when you are using prohormones as they work at a peripheral level (outside the testicles) This is also perhaps another reason to take advantage of the numerous health benefits of tea consumption on your prohormone cycle.


1. Dietary green and white teas suppress UDP-glucuronosyltransferase UGT2B17 mediated testosterone glucuronidation. Jenkinson C, Petroczi A, Barker J, Naughton DP. London, UK. : Steroids, 2012, Vol. Mar 11.


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