Explore foods that may help regulate DHT levels with the information provided here.
Testosterone plays a crucial role in male health. It’s common to assume that anything boosting testosterone is beneficial for young men.
It is certainly a preferable situation compared to dealing with high estrogen levels in men. However, high testosterone levels can lead to issues, and DHT-related baldness is one example.
Maintaining balance is key in the body. Excess of anything, even beneficial substances, can lead to problems. This applies to testosterone and its active metabolites. If you’re in the group of males who worry about their hair falling at a young age, this article is for you.
First, we’re exploring what DHT is and its relationship with testosterone levels. We’re also giving you an overview of how DHT affects a man’s health, and a list of foods DHT blocking foods.
What is DHT?
Similar to other substances in the body, testosterone goes through numerous changes. This is what metabolism means. It’s the conversion of substances in the body, and they can be nutrients or hormones. In the case of testosterone, it metabolizes to DHT.
DHT stands for dihydrotestosterone. It is an active metabolite of testosterone. In other words, DHT is essentially testosterone with an enhanced structure, produced through conversion by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase.
While children have circulating testosterone, they lack DHT. The onset of puberty, marked by the surge in DHT, initiates body changes in boys. So, DHT is a more active type of testosterone with the potential to operate changes in the body. Most of these changes are appropriate in a man.
For example, a deep voice, an increase of muscle mass, and a larger penis. They are all desirable traits that require DHT. But an excess of DHT can be a problem, as we will see in this article.
How does DHT affect men’s health?
DHT plays a vital role in male health and growth, initiating puberty and the development of secondary sexual characteristics.
It contributes to the muscle mass, and in adult males, it also useful for fertility. Appropriate levels of DHT are also required for sexual behaviors and to please your partner. However, there should always be a limit in the amount of circulating DHT.
Typically, about 10% of circulating testosterone converts to DHT. Exceeding this ratio can lead to various issues, with the most common being:
The prostate naturally grows with age, a common occurrence in all adult males. However, there’s a higher chance of growth in patients with a high DHT level. In the prostate gland, there’s an alpha-reductase enzyme. This enzyme converts testosterone into DHT inside the prostate. This prostatic DHT reaches receptors in the nucleus of the cell. These androgen receptors are capable of stimulating cell proliferation.
Thus, there’s more cell division, and the prostatic tissue grows bigger. Additional factors also play an essential role, such as insulin-like growth factors, metabolic syndrome, and others
Moreover, research indicates that the prostate capsule’s smooth muscle contains a number of adrenergic receptors. DHT stimulation of these receptors increases muscle tone in the bladder neck, exacerbating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). (1,2)
In prostate cancer, DHT has a similar role in the pathogenesis. The enzyme can be found in the prostate gland and regulates how much testosterone is converted into DHT. But DHT does not only stimulate the growth of the healthy tissue of the prostate.
It may also accelerate the appearance of prostate cancer. It is a potent growth factor that plays a vital role in cancer. Still, the role of testosterone and DHT in prostate cancer is quite complicated.
Both low and high testosterone can facilitate prostate cancer. Thus, what we want to achieve is a normal level of testosterone and DHT. In patients with ongoing prostate cancer, androgen deprivation therapy can be fundamental. But fixing low levels of circulating testosterone is fundamental to prevent prostate cancer.
This apparently conflicting relationship with prostate cancer is made even more complex if you consider that blood levels of testosterone and DHT rarely correlate with prostate tissue levels of the same hormone and metabolite (3).
Slower healing rate
Testosterone and DHT can facilitate growth in specific tissues. But its effects on the skin are not very favorable, and sometimes contrary than we would expect. Instead of inducing growth, reconstruction, and re-epithelization, it does the exact opposite. Similarly, they cause hormonal acne and other skin health problems. Thus, it can be stated without hesitation that testosterone and DHT are not friends with your skin
DHT is known to enhance the expression of beta-catenin. This is an inhibitor of cell repair and reduces the healing rate. Moreover, it inhibits the migration of keratinocytes in skin lesions. Thus, the main effect is inhibition in the re-epithelization of lesions and scratches in the skin (4).
Coronary heart disease
The relationship between androgens and heart disease is a bit complex as well. It is known that testosterone reduces cholesterol accumulation. It also modulates inflammation and improves endothelial function.
In theory, testosterone should reduce the rate of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. However, the evidence so far is conflicting and not wholly reliable (5).
But what we do know is that DHT is not beneficial for cardiovascular health. According to a recent longitudinal cohort study that followed-up over 1000 men for more than 10 years, testosterone does not relate to cardiovascular risk, but DHT does.
In other words, testosterone does not have a direct and measurable effect. You can have a higher testosterone level than the average, and it won’t affect your heart. But if your DHT levels are higher, it may increase your cardiovascular risk and all-cause mortality (6).
One of the most concerning and common problems in males with high DHT levels is hair loss. It is quite common, and yet another effect of DHT on the skin. DHT causes a series of changes in the hair follicle.
For example, it shrinks the follicle and causes thinning hair, which is also brittle and very fragile. It also causes abnormalities in the hair growth cycle. The cycle is shortened, and the hair falls faster than it should. As a result, your scalp has less hair volume, and some areas undergo a complete hair loss
DHT is associated with a very distinct type of hair loss called androgenic alopecia. It features male pattern baldness, one that is usually not seen in women. This type of alopecia features hair loss at the crown and a receding hairline.
At the same time, the scalp reduces its hair volume, and the hair becomes brittle. It only appears in some people, usually with a genetic predisposition. There are variations in the androgen receptor gene that makes your scalp more susceptible than others’ (7).
With all of this in mind, it is no wonder than DHT has gained a bad reputation. That’s why DHT blocking foods are now becoming very popular. And, when you’re using a nutritional approach, there are a few added benefits. You will be reducing DHT, but this reduction will be self-regulated. Thus, it is unlikely that you will get an extremely low DHT as a result.
6 DHT Blocking Foods
In advanced cases of hair loss, we can use medications. But you may also include a diet according to the results you’re expecting. Some of them contribute to hair regrowth, but only if the hair follicle is not yet destroyed. We recommend the following estrogen blocking foods if you want to fight hair loss with or without medications:
This type of tea comes from leaves of Camellia sinensis, and it is prevalent worldwide. It is a fermented version of black tea and has many medicinal properties.
We have seen green tea in moisturizing creams, DHT blocking shampoos, and sunscreens in recent years. That’s because this type of tea contains polyphenols and other antioxidants. They have a soothing effect and hair growth potential. These polyphenols reduce the free radicals and their harmful effects over the skin (8).
Green tea also contains vitamins and nutrients that contribute to healthy hair growth and may block testosterone conversion into DHT. According to studies on a biochemical assay, EGCG and ECG, the primary polyphenols in green tea, may have the potential to inhibit the enzyme that converts DHT. It is a natural DHT blocker (9).
Similar to other natural remedies, coconut oil does not contain a single substance. It is mostly based on fatty acids, but they are varied and very different from each other.
Some of them are saturated; others are unsaturated, according to the type of union between carbon atoms.
Out of many fatty acids found in coconut oil, we can highlight lauric acid and myristic acid. They have 12 carbon atoms and 14 carbon atoms, respectively. But they do have something in common: both of them reduce DHT conversion. They are inhibitors of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. By blocking DHT producing enzymes, it also slows down DHT production (10).
That’s why many home treatments for androgenic alopecia include coconut oil. It is also beneficial for skin health because it has several fatty acids that contribute to cell formation. It strengthens the hair and makes it look shiny and healthy. That’s why we recommend using a hair mask based on coconut oil as a part of our daily treatment for alopecia.
This is a popular spice, and it is taken from the rhizome of a plant named Curcuma. It contains a substance called curcumin. Many properties of curcumin placed this spice under the scope of doctors and researchers. One of such properties has to do with testosterone and DHT.
According to recent studies, curcumin and its analogs may inhibit androgen receptors. They interact with these receptors and do not allow testosterone or DHT to activate them. Thus, they block DHT by reducing the interaction with its receptor and DHT sensitivity.
As such, curcumin and its analogs have been recommended for prostate cancer therapy. But they may also work for hair loss, which has a similar metabolic pathway (11).
Quercetin rich foods
Quercetin is a flavonoid, a substance that protects plants similar to our immune system. It is also active in the human body and has many different roles. One of them is an inhibition of the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme.
By doing this, quercetin is reducing the rate of available DHT in the scalp. Moreover, it competes with DHT for a space in the androgen receptor. Thus, it also reduces the activation of the receptor and the destruction of the hair follicle.
Similar to curcumin, quercetin is usually proposed as a natural therapy against prostate cancer. However, the metabolic pathways are the same, and the effect is also similar. Thus, eating quercetin rich foods can be beneficial for hair loss. Apples, berries, onions, peppers, and broccoli are common foods with a lot of quercetin. They are suitable as DHT blocking foods (12).
For many years, pumpkin seeds have been counted as one of the DHT blocking foods. They are known to inhibit the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme. Thus, they have an anti-androgenic effect we can use for prostate cancer and hair loss.
Actually, and unlike many others in this list, pumpkin seed oil has been tested in humans using placebo-controlled, double-blind, and randomized studies.
According to this study, and after 24 weeks of treatment with pumpkin seed oil, the participants had an increase of healthy hair count of 40% against 10% in the placebo group. In other words, the difference is noticeable. We can use pumpkin seed oil as a topical treatment but may have a similar effect by eating pumpkin seeds (13).
Edamame is basically younger soybeans people eat as an appetizer or snack. It is also an inhibitor of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. Edamame has been tested in humans and induces a slight decrease in DHT. Even if you get a slight decline, it may be an interesting option to try. So, if you’re looking for snacks to fight hair loss, edamame is a suitable option (14).
There are many varieties of berries, but most of them contain isoflavone and flavonoids. These substances induce blood circulation to the scalp. Some of them also have proanthocyanins, which speed up the hair cycle.
A very distinct type of berry from the saw palmetto plant can be especially helpful for hair loss. This herb has been found useful to fight hair loss. However, the treatment should be continued for at least 4 months (15).
Similar to coconut oil, avocados have a variety of fatty acids, and some of them are potential DHT blockers. Besides, avocados are rich in nutrients required for hair growth, including omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E. It moisturizes the hair from within and improves the antioxidant potential of the hair follicle.
For many years, it has been widely accepted that tomato products are useful to reduce prostate cancer. That’s because it has lycopene, an antioxidant substance that reduces DNA damage. However, there are other reasons, and one of them has to do with testosterone and excess DHT.
Lycopene can modulate androgen signaling. It blocks the creation of new androgen receptors. Thus, there will be fewer activated receptors, even if there’s a lot of DHT. As a result, it is a potential therapeutic option for both prostate cancer and hair loss (16).
Other ways to fight hair loss
Indeed, the above only includes a nutritional approach to hair loss. There’s also a medical approach with drugs such as finasteride and minoxidil.
These drugs are useful for hair loss but are not recommended for all types of alopecia. In the case of minoxidil, it dilates blood vessels and increases the blood flow to the scalp. In the case of finasteride, it is a synthetic DHT inhibitor.
After using medications and natural remedies, we can also consider hair implants as an option. This type of therapy is usually applied to men over 25 years old. It is the only treatment available when DHT completely destroys the hair follicle.
DHT and testosterone are useful for men since their puberty. But DHT can also have deleterious effects on a man’s health. One of the most common problems with DHT is hair loss. It triggers a particular type of hair loss called androgenic alopecia.
We can treat this male pattern hair loss with natural remedies and plants such as turmeric, quercetin-rich foods, and green tea. There are also medical treatments such as minoxidil and finasteride. However, these can have significant side effects, which you can read about here. But even if those do not work, we still have hair implants as an option for patients over 25 years old.