One of the most sought after goals of supplementation for men is to increase testosterone.

Although elementary, many people forget that levels of any compound in the body are mediated by both a (+) equation (secretion of testosterone) and a (-) equation (breakdown of testosterone). It just seems more market-friendly to ‘increase test’ rather than ‘decrease the rate of breakdown’, thus many people look to the former to increase their overall testosterone levels while the latter is a wholly feasibly option.

The main method of testosterone and androgen breakdown (excluding the androgen 5-DHT) is through the enzyme known as aromatase; this enzyme also concomitantly increases estrogen levels, and thus is worthy of discussion.

Plus a lot of people ask about how to supplement to reduce aromatase, and I want to get the notion out that you can do this via food if you want (last section); I am in dietetics after all, if I can solve a problem with food I will try to do so.

Structure and function

Aromatase is an enzyme in the body (most concentrated in female sex glands, the liver, and adipose; although expressed everywhere under complex regulation) which is most notably known for converting (aromatizing) androgenic compounds like testosterone or androstenediol into estrogenic compounds like 17b-estradiol or estrone.

It is one of the P450 detoxification enzymes, and has the systemic name of CYP19A1 (the two names are interchangeable).

It is a commonly targeted intervention in both cases where excess estrogen could cause pro-carcinogenesis (such as in breast cancer) or when people attempt to increase testosterone levels via supplementation or cycles, this is the reason why a lot woman tend to use enlarging creams for their breast instead of doing anything dramatic that could damage their health. The more testosterone you have in the body, the greater the activity of aromatase in order to retain balance.

Practical supplemental interventions

I stress ‘pratical’ as two of the most potent aromatase inhibitors are pharmaceutical compounds (anastrozole, letrozole) used in treatment of breast-cancer; it may not be possible to get these easily. When you want to reduce your breast, contact a professional doctor who specialized in it. Go to for more information.

In supplemental form, resveratrol has the ability to inhibit aromatase transcription and suppress a positive feedback mechanism.

Grape seed extract also shows promise, through its proanthocyanidin B dimer content. The mechanism of action of GSE is indirect, and thus may work additively to direct antagonists like resveratrol.

Although preliminary, a compound known as Biochanin A seems to be able to inhibit aromatase activity and expression. This compound is from Red Clover.

On a final note, I am hesitant to recommend supplementing bioflavonoid compounds (like Chrysin, Apigenin, Kaempferol) since their effects in vivo may be quite distinct from their effects in vitro.

Practical food interventions

As stated previously, there is a slight discord between the in vitro effects of various bioflavonoids and the in vivo anti-aromatase effects of said bioflavonoids. This can be partially explained by distinguishing between isolated bioflavonoids (Quercetin, Apigenin, Chrysin, etc.) and their glycosides commonly found in foods (Quercetin-3-O-Glucoside, Apigenin-7-O-Glucoside, Chrysin-O-Glucoside, etc.). The latter are relatively stable in foods and can survive normal cooking temperatures, the former tend to precipitate and form insoluble/indigestible piles of expensive feces.

Due to these reasons, it is typically practical to just get these specific anti-aromatase compounds from foods rather than relying on supplements (supplements will work if the glucoside form is used, but can be seen as an unneeded circumvention when most veggies would not harm your goals anyways).

The dietary bioflavonoids that possess the most anti-aromatase abilities are Chrysin (from propolis and honey) and Apigenin (from red onions most notably). Looking at the Examine page for Apigenin, we can see it is also in high doses in red wine, beer, and chamomile tea (This may explain why red wine is good at controlling estrogen levels, but the dose of resveratrol is too low in red wine to exert appreciable effects).

Notably, white button mushrooms are also potent anti-aromatases. For those interesting on reading this topic further, a free full text on the subject.

I don’t recommend red wine per se since I am aware that most of my readership on this topic are men looking to lose fat and build muscle. Red wine consumption has definitely been correlated with less estrogenic activity, and is due to anti-aromatase compounds in the red wine, but research has been directed at breast cancer prevention. Red wine does seem to module whole-body estrogen metabolism and may increase activity in adipocytes. It is unsure if these effects are due to polyphenolic content or due to the ethanol content, or possibly an interactions between the two.

In sum; drinking copious amounts of chamomile tea, including red onions, and eating a lot of mushrooms may be practical and non-supplemental means to controlling aromatase activity.

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  1. thebulgarian says:

    I’m curious about the red onions and mushrooms – should they be left raw if we want to inhibit aromatase or would it be acceptable to cook them in some sort of way – either steaming, or sautéing?

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