DHT is a well-known, primary cause of male pattern hair loss that is linked to both your genetic propensity to hair loss and natural body processes that lead you to lose hair as you age.

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What is DHT?

Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia, is one of the most prevalent causes of hair loss in men as they age.

This form of hair loss can also affect women, though it is considerably less prevalent. This form of hair loss affects about 30 million women in the United States, compared to 50 million males.

The most important underlying component in male pattern hair loss is sex hormones in the body.

DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is an androgen. An androgen is a sex hormone that aids in developing what is considered “masculine” sex traits like body hair. However, it can cause you to lose your hair more quickly and prematurely.

Treatments that particularly target DHT are available to help reduce the onset of male pattern baldness. Let’s look at how DHT works, how it affects your hair and testosterone, and what you can do to prevent or delay male pattern baldness.

What does DHT do?

DHT is a testosterone derivative. Testosterone is a hormone that both men and women produce. It and DHT are androgens or hormones that play a role in developing male sex characteristics throughout puberty. These characteristics include:

  • a deep tone of voice
  • as sperm production begins, the penis, scrotum, and testicles gain more hair and muscular mass, and the way fat is stored around the body changes.

Testosterone and DHT provide various other health benefits as you become older, including maintaining total muscle mass and encouraging sexual health and fertility.

In general, men have more testosterone in their bodies than women. With the help of an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, about 10% of testosterone in all people is transformed to DHT (5-AR).

DHT can attach to receptors on hair follicles in your scalp once it’s freely circulating through your bloodstream, causing them to shrink and become less capable of supporting a healthy head of hair.

DHT’s potential for harm extends beyond your hair. DHT, particularly extremely high levels of it, has been associated to:

  • coronary heart disease
  • prostate cancer
  • enlarged prostate
  • slow healing of the skin after an injury

What happens from having too little DHT?

High DHT levels can put you at risk for some diseases, while too little DHT can wreak havoc on your sexual development as you approach puberty.

Low DHT levels can induce puberty delays in both sexes. Low DHT does not appear to have much of an effect on women, but it may cause this – late or incomplete development of sex organs, such as the penis or testes, causes alterations in body fat distribution, resulting in gynecomastia and an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancers.

Why DHT affects people differently?

Your predisposition for hair loss is inherited, which means it runs in your family. If you’re a man and your father has male pattern balding, you’ll likely develop a similar balding pattern as you become older.

The follicle-shrinking effect of DHT is more pronounced if you’re already prone to male pattern baldness.

How quickly DHT decreases, your follicles may be influenced by the size and shape of your head.

Is DHT connected to balding?

Follicles, which are essentially small capsules containing a single strand of hair, generate hair all over your body from structures beneath your skin known as follicles.

A follicle’s hair passes through a growth cycle that lasts two to six years on average. Even if you shave or trim your hair, the root of the hair housed within the follicle will grow again out of the follicle.

The hair enters a resting phase at the end of this cycle before finally falling out a few months later. The follicle then creates new hair, and the process begins all over again.

High amounts of androgens, such as DHT, can reduce your hair follicles and shorten this cycle, causing hair to grow out thinner and brittle and fall out more quickly. When old hairs fall out, DHT might make it take longer for your follicles to develop new hairs.

Variations in the androgen receptor (AR) gene make certain persons more susceptible to DHT’s effects on scalp hair.

Androgen receptors are proteins that bind to hormones such as testosterone and DHT. This binding activity is often associated with normal hormonal processes such as hair development on the body.

Variations in the AR gene, on the other hand, can enhance androgen sensitivity in your scalp follicles, increasing your risk of male pattern hair loss.

DHT vs. testosterone

In the male body, testosterone is the most abundant and active androgen. It’s in charge of a slew of sexual and physiological functions, including:

  • regulating your mood and emotions\
  • helping distribute fat throughout the body
  • preserving bone density and muscle mass
  • regulating sperm production
  • regulating androgen hormone levels throughout the body

DHT is a testosterone byproduct. DHT is similar to testosterone in that it affects some of the same sexual functions and physiological processes, but it is far more powerful. DHT can bind to androgen receptors for extended periods of time, boosting the influence of testosterone synthesis throughout the body.

How to reduce DHT?

Many treatments for DHT-related hair loss have been proved to work, and many of them act by precisely targeting DHT production and receptor binding.

There are two major categories:

  • Blockers

These can stop DHT from attaching to 5-AR receptors, including those in your hair follicles, which can cause follicular shrinkage.

  • Inhibitors

These inhibit the formation of DHT in your body.

Finasteride

Finasteride (Proscar, Propecia) is an oral medicine available exclusively by prescription.

In a 2012 trial of 3,177 males, it was shown to have at least an 87 percent success rate, with few reported negative effects. Finasteride binds to 5-AR proteins and prevents DHT from binding.

This prevents DHT from attaching to receptors on your hair follicles and reducing them.

Minoxidil

A peripheral vasodilator is known as minoxidil (Rogaine). This implies it aids in the widening and loosening of blood arteries, allowing blood to flow more freely.

It’s commonly used to treat high blood pressure. When applied topically to the scalp, however, minoxidil can assist increase hair growth.

Biotin

Biotin, often known as vitamin H, is a natural B vitamin that aids in converting some foods and liquids into energy that your body can use.

Biotin also aids in the production and maintenance of keratin, a protein found in your hair, nails, and skin. Biotin is vital for your body’s keratin levels, but research on why isn’t conclusive. However, according to a 2015 study, biotin can help hair regrow and prevent hair loss.

Biotin is a vitamin that can be taken orally, but it’s also found in egg yolks, almonds, and whole grains.

Pygeum bark

Pygeum is a plant that comes from the African cherry tree’s bark. It’s commonly offered as an oral herbal supplement.

Because of its DHT-blocking function, it’s well-known as a possibly effective treatment for an enlarged prostate and prostatitis. As a result, it’s regarded to be a potential treatment for DHT-related hair loss. However, there is limited evidence that pygeum bark can be used as a standalone DHT blocker.

Pumpkin seed oil

Another DHT blocker that has been proven to work is pumpkin seed oil.

A 2014 research of 76 men with male pattern baldness found that ingesting 400 mg of pumpkin seed oil every day for 24 weeks resulted in a 40% rise in average scalp hair count.

Caffeine

Caffeine’s ability to enhance hair growth has been the subject of very little research. However, according to 2014, caffeine can help reduce hair loss by causing hairs to grow longer by extending the development phase of hair, boosting the synthesis of keratin.

Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6

B vitamin deficiencies, particularly B-6 and B-12, can produce various symptoms, including thinning or loss of hair.

While taking B-12 or B-6 pills will not help you regain lost hair, they will help make your hair thicker and healthier by boosting blood flow to your scalp follicles.

What are the side effects of DHT blockers?

Some documented side effects of DHT blockers include:

  • congestive heart failure from salt or water retention, especially possible with minoxidil
  • darkening and thickening of facial and upper body hair
  • vomiting
  • feeling sick
  • rash
  • excess fat development and tenderness around the breast area
  • ejaculating too early or taking too long to ejaculate
  • erectile dysfunction

What are some other causes of hair loss?

DHT isn’t the only factor that could be causing your hair to be thin or fall out. Here are a few other possible causes of hair loss.

  • Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder in which your body assaults your hair follicles on your head and elsewhere.

Though minor patches of hair loss may be seen at first, this disorder can lead to full baldness of the head, eyebrows, facial hair, and body hair.

  • Lichen planus

Another autoimmune disorder is lichen planus, which causes your body to attack your skin cells, including those on your scalp. This might harm your follicles, causing your hair to fall out.

  • Thyroid conditions

Hair loss on the scalp can be caused by conditions that cause your thyroid gland to produce too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) of particular thyroid hormones that help balance your metabolism.

  • Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that results in digestive problems resulting from consuming gluten, a protein found in foods such as bread, oats, and other grains. A sign of this illness is hair loss.

  • Scalp infections

Various scalp disorders, particularly fungal infections like tinea capitis (also known as scalp ringworm), can irritate and scaly your scalp, causing hair to fall out of affected follicles.

  • Bamboo hair

Bamboo hair appears when the surfaces of your hair strands appear thin, knotty, and segmented rather than smooth. It’s a common sign of Netherton syndrome, a hereditary illness characterized by excessive skin shedding and uneven hair growth.

What food can you eat to block DHT?

DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is a hormone comparable to testosterone and is suspected of playing a role in hair loss in both men and women.

An enzyme called 5-alpha reductase transforms roughly 5% of testosterone into DHT in your body naturally (1Trusted Source).

Many foods are thought to reduce DHT production from testosterone and prevent hair loss by inhibiting this enzyme.

Here are some foods that may fight hair loss by blocking DHT.

Green tea

Green tea, which comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, is one of the most popular beverages globally. Green tea leaves are steamed rather than fermented during manufacture, as is the case with oolong and black tea leaves, preserving more of the tea’s inherent ingredients.

This includes epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a major plant component in green tea linked to health advantages such as weight loss, heart health, and brain health. EGCG has also been demonstrated to protect hair follicles — the hair-growing area of your skin — against DHT-induced hair loss.

An alcohol extract of EGCG increased hair growth by inhibiting the death of cells that govern hair growth and development caused by DHT when applied to the scalps of three males for four days. While this study has several flaws, including small sample size and a short treatment period, it does pave the door for more research on the subject.

Green tea extract pills often contain standardized levels of EGCG; no studies have demonstrated that they can prevent hair loss caused by DHT. They’ve also been related to liver disease in certain people. Further human research is needed to evaluate whether drinking green tea or taking EGCG or green tea supplements prevents hair loss and blocks DHT.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is extracted from the meat or kernels of coconuts.

Because of its capacity to endure high cooking temperatures, it is frequently utilized in the kitchen. The oil also has various applications in beauty, skincare, haircare, and overall health.

Coconut oil has a high amount of fat from medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), predominantly in the form of lauric acid, which has been demonstrated in test tubes and animal experiments to inhibit DHT formation when taken orally.

These investigations, known as preclinical investigations, aid researchers in determining if a particular medication is successful or safe, but their findings cannot be applied to humans. As a result, human clinical trials are required before coconut oil may be advised to prevent or treat hair loss.

Onions (and other foods rich in quercetin)

White onions have a sweet but tangy flavor that goes well with a variety of foods. They have a low-calorie count but are abundant in antioxidants like quercetin. Quercetin has been proven in preclinical investigations to reduce DHT formation from testosterone by blocking the enzyme alpha-5 reductase and reducing oxidative stress.

Quercetin, for example, was proven to reduce DHT production in rats when paired with a routinely recommended medicine for hair loss. Despite these encouraging findings, no human research has looked into the impact of eating onions or taking quercetin supplements on DHT levels.

Asparagus, spinach, kale, apples, and berries are among the fruits and vegetables high in quercetin.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a health-promoting herb that is commonly used in cooking and as a powder extract. It has been demonstrated to alleviate arthritis pain, lower cholesterol, and increase exercise recovery, among other things.

Turmeric’s high concentration of active chemicals called curcuminoids, the best-studied curcumin, is connected to these effects. Curcumin has been shown in preclinical tests to reduce DHT levels by inhibiting the alpha-5 reductase enzyme.

However, it is unclear whether these findings apply to humans.

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin is a winter squash that is associated with fall celebrations such as Halloween. Hundreds of nutritious seeds rich in iron, zinc, magnesium, and antioxidants can be found in each pumpkin. Intriguingly, pumpkin seed oil may help men grow their hair.

In a 24-week study of 76 men with male pattern hair loss, those who took a daily 400-mg pumpkin seed oil supplement grew much more hair than those who took a placebo. Hair thickness, on the other hand, did not differ significantly between the groups.

These results were linked to pumpkin seed oil’s capacity to block the alpha-5 reductase enzyme, inhibiting DHT formation from testosterone. However, the supplement utilized in the study contains other active substances that could have influenced the results.

Edamame

Edamame beans are a type of young soybean that is commonly eaten as a snack or appetizer. In addition to being high in protein and fiber, edamame beans include isoflavones, which are beneficial plant components that prevent the action of 5-alpha reductase, potentially lowering DHT levels.

In a 6-month trial, 58 men were randomly assigned to supplement their diets with isoflavone-rich soy protein, isoflavone-depleted soy protein, or milk protein.

Soy protein supplements, independent of isoflavone content, lowered DHT levels more than milk protein after 3 and 6 months. Although the drop in DHT was not statistically significant after six months, it may still have therapeutic or practical significance.

Furthermore, because the favorable benefits were detected with soy protein devoid of most of the isoflavones, soy may include other active components linked to these effects. Another study in men found similar results, implying that soy protein, whether low or rich in isoflavones, can help reduce DHT levels.

Although it is widely believed that soy consumption lowers testosterone levels in males, most data demonstrates that this is not the case if soy is ingested in moderation. Regardless, more human research is needed to see how consuming edamame or other soy products affects DHT levels and hair loss.

What other ways you can treat DHT hair loss?

Many meals contain minerals that have been demonstrated to reduce DHT levels in animals, but additional human study is needed. If you’re experiencing hair loss, make an appointment with your doctor to go over your medical history and figure out what’s causing your hair loss so you can get the right therapy.

Hair loss can be treated with medications like minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia). Finasteride is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor that reduces DHT synthesis, while minoxidil is a vasodilator that dilates your blood vessels.

These drugs, however, can have severe side effects such as breast swelling and discomfort, irregular menstruation, migraines, and diminished libido, which must be considered.

It’s also possible that your hair loss is caused by a vitamin or mineral deficiency, in which case a supplement may be required. For example, a study of over 500 Swiss women discovered that 38% of them had a shortage of biotin, a B vitamin that is important for hair maintenance.

Protein, zinc, iron, and vitamin A are among the other nutrients required for healthy hair development and thickness.

The takeaway

Many DHT-related hair loss therapies are available, and minimizing hair loss can help you feel more confident about your look in everyday life. However, you should consult a doctor first because not all therapies are safe or beneficial for you. DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is a hormone that causes hair loss in both men and women.

Among other foods and beverages, elements found in green tea, onions, pumpkin seeds, and edamame may help lower DHT levels and prevent hair loss. However, based on the limited evidence, more human studies are needed before any meals or specific nutrients may be advised in the absence of nutrient insufficiency.

References

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Amy Revene M.B.B.S.
Amy Revene M.B.B.S. graduated from the University of Sharjah. She is currently working as a General Physician at New Hope Medical Center. Amy has a passion for research and offers her expertise and opinions helping people in their quest to lead healthy, happy lives.

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