Most men and women watch their hair slowly thin with age. It is one of the most apparent signals of your age to people you meet. But you may be in the first generation of men that can actually do something about it.
We do not lose our hair because of wear and tear from the environment. New scientific discoveries have led to a very important revelation about why hair thins with age. Your hair falls out on command – commands from hormones. The secret to keeping a naturally thick, lustrous, full head of hair is to change that hormonal command.
We have known for some time that male hormones were involved. They provide a genetically programmed signal for hair thinning to begin and they control how it progresses as you age. Convention made a big mistake, however, in blaming testosterone. As it turns out high testosterone levels throughout life can protect you from hair loss.
The real culprit has turned out to be a different male hormone called dihydrotestosterone or DHT. This hormone also exists in women where it also causes hair loss. In fact, most women I’ve treated with the pattern of receding hair lines and hair thinning over the crown have high DHT levels in their blood.
I have seen high blood levels of DHT induce hair loss in young athletes who abuse anabolic steroids. In some cases, there was not a genetic predisposition to baldness. When we employ strategies to lower DHT, their hair loss stops.
You can use these same strategies to lower your DHT. They have been recently proven to reduce hair loss, preserve your current head of hair or even induce new hair growth.
You may have seen ads for the prescription drug Propecia. It has been a significant balding treatment breakthrough. Propecia has been associated with a number of side effects though. It’s also very expensive, is not covered by most health insurances and has not been approved for women. There are safer, less expensive natural alternatives that can do the same thing. In fact, they can work by exactly the same mechanism.
Propecia works by blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT. This is the perfect point of attack. It has the effect of both decreasing DHT and increasing testosterone. Propecia inhibits the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase necessary for this conversion. A number of plant-based nutrients also inhibit this enzyme.
Testosterone: Notice the 4,5 double-bond on the A (leftmost) ring.
Testosterone Changes to DHT: Notice the double bond is missing…
The most powerful nutrient to block the conversion of testosterone to DHT is beta-sitosterol. Beta-sitosterol has been proven to inhibit 5-alpha-reductase from converting testosterone into DHT.
A study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine examined beta-sitosterol’s effectiveness in blocking the production of DHT. The study analyzed men between the ages of 23 and 64 with hair loss.
The participants either received beta-sitosterol or a placebo. The researchers found that 60% of the men receiving beta-sitosterol had an improvement in hair growth. They also lost less hair than the placebo group.1 A softgel containing B-sitosterol 50mg and saw palmetto 200mg extract versus placebo in treating hair loss was used.
You can also find beta-sitosterol in a few herbs at health food stores: saw palmetto, pygeum bark extract and in pumpkin seeds.
Another important nutrient is gamma linolenic acid (GLA). It is an essential fatty acid found in natural plant oils. It is difficult to obtain healthy amounts through diet alone.
Gamma linolenic acid is a proven 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology published one well-known study, researchers tested GLA’s efficacy on hamsters. GLA successfully inhibited the 5-alpha-reductase converting testosterone into DHT.2
Like most health issues, good nutrition serves as the foundation. Stress, drugs of abuse, bad health habits and prescription drugs aggravate the problem and can accelerate the loss of hair.
6 Tips For Keeping Your Hair Youthful
- Eat a healthy, high protein diet
- Avoid too much stress
- Do not use illegal drugs
- Avoid prescription drugs
- Limit hat wearing
- Take a multivitamin
New technologies are rapidly emerging that will change the way older men look. Better hair grafts to hormonal manipulation to new prescription drugs, the options have changed useless, vain and troublesome snake oils to a powerful armamentarium that can have a real effect.
Growing real hair takes time. There are no immediate solutions for a return of natural hair growth. But, if you have patience, you can expect to make a difference by sticking to a well thought out strategy.
- Prager N, et al., A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of botanically derived inhibitors of 5-alpha-reductase in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. J Altern Complement Med 2002 Apr; 8(2): 143-152
- Liang T, et al., Growth suppression of hamster flank organs by topical application of gamma-linolenic and other fatty acid inhibitors of 5 alpha-reductase. J Inv Derm 1997 Aug; 109(2): 152-157