Moldy Testosterone

Mold on wall surface

Who doesn’t want a little testosterone these days? The anti-aging science coming out indicates that both men and women should optimize their levels of this hormone.  Of course, women need far less than men, but still need enough for metabolic benefits.  Like nearly all of our health pathways, we want enough but not too much. Beyond, that, in functional medicine we always want to be looking for root causes and not just putting hormonal band-aids on a broken hormone system.  That’s why we should be considering the effects of mold toxins on our patient’s hormones before writing a prescription for more testosterone.

While the agricultural industry is keenly aware of the extensive effects of mold toxins , or mycotoxins, on animal health, the effects of these naturally produced chemicals is not appreciated by conventional medicine.  In our clinic we see so many affected by these toxins in ways that regular doctors would not believe.  Besides the immunological effects of these toxins, our hormonal system is probably the second most affected.

Don’t just take our word or our experience as proof that mycotoxins impact our hormones negatively.  Look over the articles linked further below after reading these quick summaries.

Testosterone is a steroid hormone made by our gonadal tissues, ovaries and testes, as well as our adrenal glands.  By a series of enzymatic processes, they take cholesterol and convert it to testosterone.   In men, the Leydig cells of the testes produce the highest levels of this essential hormone.  The first mycotoxin in our list of disruptors directly affects Leydig cell’s enzyme pathways as well as caused apoptosis, or death, of these cells.  Citrinin (Vanacloig-Pedros 2016) is produced by several species of Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Monascus species of mold on foods such as grains.  In different mouse studies this mycotoxin was found to cause a lower production of testosterone through either killing the cells (cytotoxic effects) or altering their hormone production pathways when applied to Leydig cells in cell culture (Shuqiang et al 2012).  In male mice, injection of the toxin into the abdominal cavity of this toxin caused lower fertility rates, lower testosterone levels, and lower sperm counts (Qingqing et al 2012).  In another mouse study, citrinin was found to be harmful to Sertoli cells, another cell in the testes which contributes to sperm fertility (Aydin et al 2019).

Other mycotoxins also contribute beyond citrinin.  Enniatin B also decreased testosterone levels in Leydig cell taken from neonatal pigs (Kalayou 2015).  In this study, cytotoxic effects were seen as well as changes in the expression of different enzyme genes which play a role in hormone production.  Levels of progesterone, pregnenolone, and testosterone were affected by enniatin B.  This mycotoxin is mainly produced by Fusarium species as it grows on cereal grains.  While it is considered to have a minor effect on health by some, research is still ongoing (Prosperini et al 2017).

Zearalenone is another mycotoxin produced by Fusarium species as it grows on foods.  Several studies highlight its endocrine disruptive abilities and contribute this to its steroid like structure (Kowalska et al 2016).  In one study zearalenone had varying effects based on concentrations, increasing hormones at lower levels while lowering some hormones at higher levels (Frizzell et al 2011).  Along with the other mycotoxins, ochratoxin A, T-2, and citrinin, zearalenone showed decreased levels of testosterone production (Fenske et al 2011).

Cytochalasin B from some species of Chaetomium and Aspergillus has been demonstrated to interfere with the production of testosterone by blocking luteinizing hormones stimulation at the smooth endoplasmic reticulum.

With this wealth of information representing the tip of the iceberg, we can see that mycotoxins have the potential for effecting a wide range of human health processes.  The literature on the effects of mycotoxins on hormones will continue in future posts with countless more connections to be discussed.  The wide-ranging effects of hormones on health and illness are widely recognized by both natural and conventional medicine.  Together, anyone with open eyes and an open mind can understand why we work so hard to uncover the presence of mold toxins in our patients suffering from chronic and unexplained illness.  When we see these research studies and then the results of removing the toxins from the patient’s body and environment, we know that we are on the right track to helping others find the healthier, more abundant life.  Stay tuned for more hormone-mycotoxin connections.



Aydin, Yasemin et al. “Evaluation of citrinin-induced toxic effects on mouse Sertoli cells.” Drug and chemical toxicology, 1-7. 29 May. 2019, doi:10.1080/01480545.2019.1614021

Liu, Shuqiang et al. “Citrinin reduces testosterone secretion by inducing apoptosis in rat Leydig cells.” Toxicology in vitro : an international journal published in association with BIBRA vol. 26,6 (2012): 856-61. doi:10.1016/j.tiv.2012.04.026

Qingqing, Han et al. “Toxic effects of citrinin on the male reproductive system in mice.” Experimental and toxicologic pathology : official journal of the Gesellschaft fur Toxikologische Pathologie vol. 64,5 (2012): 465-9. doi:10.1016/j.etp.2010.10.015

Vanacloig-Pedros, Elena et al. “Different Toxicity Mechanisms for Citrinin and Ochratoxin A Revealed by Transcriptomic Analysis in Yeast.” Toxins vol. 8,10 273. 22 Sep. 2016, doi:10.3390/toxins8100273

Enniatin B:

Kalayou, Shewit et al. “An investigation of the endocrine disrupting potential of enniatin B using in vitro bioassays.” Toxicology letters vol. 233,2 (2015): 84-94. doi:10.1016/j.toxlet.2015.01.014

Prosperini, Alessandra et al. “A Review of the Mycotoxin Enniatin B.” Frontiers in public health vol. 5 304. 16 Nov. 2017, doi:10.3389/fpubh.2017.00304


Fenske M, Fink-Gremmels J. Effects of fungal metabolites on testosterone secretion in vitro. Arch Toxicol. 1990;64(1):72-75.

Frizzell C, Ndossi D, Verhaegen S, et al. Endocrine disrupting effects of zearalenone, alpha- and beta-zearalenol at the level of nuclear receptor binding and steroidogenesis. Toxicol Lett. 2011;206(2):210-217.

Kalayou, Shewit et al. “An investigation of the endocrine disrupting potential of enniatin B using in vitro bioassays.” Toxicology letters vol. 233,2 (2015): 84-94. doi:10.1016/j.toxlet.2015.01.014

Kowalska, Karolina et al. “Zearalenone as an endocrine disruptor in humans.” Environmental toxicology and pharmacology vol. 48 (2016): 141-149. doi:10.1016/j.etap.2016.10.015

Cytochalasin B:

Murono EP, Lin T, Osterman J, Nankin HR. The effects of cytochalasin B on testosterone synthesis by interstitial cells of rat testis. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1980;633(2):228-236.

Review of different mycotoxins effects on reproduction:

El Khoury, Diala et al. “Updates on the Effect of Mycotoxins on Male Reproductive Efficiency in Mammals.” Toxins vol. 11,9 515. 3 Sep. 2019, doi:10.3390/toxins11090515

Rabbit trails not mentioned above:

Cortinovis, Cristina et al. “Fusarium mycotoxins: effects on reproductive function in domestic animals–a review.” Theriogenology vol. 80,6 (2013): 557-64. doi:10.1016/j.theriogenology.2013.06.018

Ibeh, I N, and D K Saxena. “Aflatoxin B1 and reproduction. I. Reproductive performance in female rats.” African journal of reproductive health vol. 1,2 (1997): 79-84.

Malir, Frantisek et al. “Ochratoxin A: developmental and reproductive toxicity-an overview.” Birth defects research. Part B, Developmental and reproductive toxicology vol. 98,6 (2013): 493-502. doi:10.1002/bdrb.21091

Perazzo, Juan Carlos et al. “Growth and reproductive problems in a colony of laboratory rats. Diagnosis: Mycotoxin poisoning.” Lab animal vol. 37,4 (2008): 153-5. doi:10.1038/laban0408-153

Rai, Ankita et al. “Occurrence and toxicity of a fusarium mycotoxin, zearalenone.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition vol. 60,16 (2020): 2710-2729. doi:10.1080/10408398.2019.1655388

Shuaib, Faisal M B et al. “Reproductive health effects of aflatoxins: a review of the literature.” Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.) vol. 29,3 (2010): 262-70. doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2009.12.005

Yang, Dacheng et al. “Toxic effects of zearalenone on gametogenesis and embryonic development: A molecular point of review.” Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association vol. 119 (2018): 24-30. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2018.06.003

Yang, Xu et al. “Review of the Reproductive Toxicity of T-2 Toxin.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 68,3 (2020): 727-734. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.9b07880



Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.

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