When dealing with male pattern baldness — also called androgenic alopecia — you’re probably not only looking for the reason why you’re losing your hair but also for solutions to encourage healthy hair growth. Is hair loss preventable? Did you inherit it from your mom’s dad? Was it something you ate?
It’d be easy to point the finger at one culprit of hair loss, but truthfully a receding hairline is most likely a combination of your genetics (thanks Mom and Dad) and the effects of DHT on your hair.
While the most effective DHT blockers are medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hair loss, some research suggests that certain foods and supplements may be able to reduce your DHT levels as well.
Below, we’ve listed possible DHT-blocking foods that slow down or stop the effects of male pattern baldness. We’ve also explained how you can use science-based, proven hair loss treatments to stop hair thinning and promote regrowth in areas of your scalp with noticeable hair loss. And yes, we’ll let you know what DHT stands for.
DHT can then bind to androgen receptors on hair follicles, causing them to shrink and stop producing new hairs, which leads to male pattern baldness.
So, safe to say there’s a pretty good connection between DHT and hair loss — if you have excess DHT or are very sensitive to DHT, it can cause baldness.
But as we mentioned, research suggests there may be foods that block DHT, so adding them to your diet will possibly prevent increased hair loss.
However, it’s important to put this research into context. Right now, there isn’t a lot of high-quality scientific data on the effects of foods that increase DHT. There also aren’t a lot of studies showing that dietary changes can stop male pattern baldness or the production of DHT.
That being said, the current research available on DHT-blocking foods may be a good starting point to combat hair loss. Read on to learn more about seven foods that may block DHT.
There are certainly plenty of benefits of turmeric for hair and body, from scalp health to reduced inflammation. Some early studies have also found that the common spice and nutritional supplement, whose main compound is called curcumin, may block DHT.
An animal study found that daily use of a curcumin supplement reduced testosterone and DHT levels in the prostate tissue of mice.
Another animal study concluded that curcumin analogues (substances with similar structure and functions to curcumin) may inhibit DHT-induced androgen receptor activity in certain cells.
However, because these studies weren’t conducted on humans, the results shouldn’t be seen as conclusive proof that curcumin blocks DHT. But some Indian food for dinner can’t hurt.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian (or simply limit the amount of meat in your diet), you probably rely on soy as a source of protein. Research shows that soy protein, which is found in soybeans and other soy products, may also help lower levels of DHT in the body.
In a six-month study, men at high risk of prostate cancer — a disease that’s aggravated by DHT — were assigned to consume either soy protein high in isoflavones (plant-based compounds that mimic the hormone estrogen), soy protein without isoflavones or a milk-based protein isolate on a twice-daily basis.
The results? The men who used either of the soy protein products showed a small decrease in DHT levels while those who used the milk-based protein isolate had a small increase in DHT levels.
But despite the small drop in DHT levels, the men’s testosterone levels remained steady throughout the study period — contrary to what some websites or podcasts might say about the effects of soy.
A popular ingredient that’s widely promoted as a natural treatment for various hair, skin and general health ailments, coconut oil is produced from the kernel or meat of the coconut.
You’ve probably heard about coconut oil, as well as other natural oils for hair, as a topical treatment for preventing hair damage and stimulating growth. And if you’re curious about other essential oils for hair, we have a guide for that too.
But while there’s currently no evidence to show that coconut oil speeds up hair growth when applied to hair topically, some research has found that certain compounds in coconut oil may be effective at reducing the effects of DHT.
The study that supports coconut oil's ability to reduce DHT levels found that lauric acid, a substance found in coconut oil, may affect the 5-alpha reductase enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT.
Once again though, this study wasn’t conducted on humans, so findings on coconut oil as a DHT blocker food aren’t authoritative proof that it can help with hair loss.
More than just a fall decorative item, pumpkin is rich in nutrients, as are its seeds, which contain minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron.
There’s even research that pumpkin seed oil, an oil that’s cold-pressed from pumpkin seeds, may help prevent hair loss and stimulate hair growth.
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that men with male pattern baldness who used a pumpkin seed oil supplement for 24 weeks experienced a 40 percent increase in average hair count.
In comparison, men who used a non-therapeutic placebo only saw a 10 percent increase in hair count over the same period.
With that said, there’s currently no scientific research that shows a direct link between pumpkin seeds or pumpkin seed oil and lower DHT levels.
If you regularly drink green tea, you’re probably aware of its health benefits, such as being rich in antioxidants.
One of the most important compounds found in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, an antioxidant that’s linked to many of green tea’s positive effects on health.
Some scientific research has found that EGCG may help to reduce the effects of DHT on your hair follicles and prevent hair loss.
For example, a study published in the journal Annals of Dermatology found that EGCG protects human dermal papilla cells — cells found in human hair follicles — against DHT-induced cellular damage.
While this research is interesting, there are currently no studies showing that drinking green tea directly reduces DHT or stimulates hair growth. But if you’re curious if there are other benefits, you can read our guide on green tea for hair.
Foods that are rich in lycopene, such as tomatoes, carrots, guava, watermelon, mangoes, pink grapefruit and others, could be DHT-blocking foods.
A systematic review — which relied on animal study data — found a mixed relationship between lycopene and DHT, noting that although lycopene inhibits some forms of DHT-induced growth, it doesn’t appear to lower DHT levels. The review also found that lycopene possibly reduces androgen metabolism, which is one of the main risk factors of prostate cancer.
All in all, more research is needed to kno
w whether tomatoes and other foods rich in lycopene are effective at blocking DHT and preventing you from seeing lots of hair fall out.
A cooking staple, onions may do more than just give you bad breath — they could be a DHT-blocker food.
Quercitrin, a flavonoid found in onions, apples and grapes, is known to have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents. This flavonoid was found to stimulate hair growth in cultured hair follicles, along with other compounds.
However, more research needs to be done to determine whether quercitrin alone, without being combined with additional compounds, can encourage hair growth. While the effects of quercitrin and onions on hair growth are uncertain, other foods for hair growth may improve your hair health.
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As you can tell from above, the list of foods that block DHT is short and right now, the research is very inconclusive. Fortunately, there are science-backed ways to treat hair loss and encourage hair growth.
If you’re starting to notice the early signs of balding and want to take action, these medications are a safer bet than changes to your diet alone:
Finasteride. A 5-alpha reductase inhibitor medication that blocks DHT production by stopping your body from converting testosterone into DHT, finasteride is highly effective. In one study, more than 99 percent of men who used finasteride for 10 years experienced no further hair loss, with 91.5 percent regrowing some of their “lost” hair. We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Minoxidil. Minoxidil doesn’t block DHT but works by moving your hairs into the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle and by increasing the level of blood flow to your scalp. Minoxidil, a topical medication, is applied directly to the areas of your scalp with hair loss. We offer both a minoxidil foam and a minoxidil solution, as well as a combination power pack of topical finasteride & minoxidil spray.
Hair supplements. One supplement that’s linked to hair growth is biotin. Although it doesn’t treat hair loss, supplementing with biotin may help you to maintain healthy hair growth. We offer a convenient form of biotin in our biotin gummies.
Hair growth shampoo and conditioner. To limit the production of DHT, you could use specialty shampoos and conditioners. Our guide on DHT blocking shampoos covers how these work. You can also try our volumizing shampoo and conditioner or our thickening shampoo with saw palmetto. An herbal treatment, saw palmetto may lower levels of DHT in the scalp and prevent you from losing hair, without side effects.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.
If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.
How much of an impact does diet have in your fight against hair loss? Are there foods that can be considered natural DHT blockers?
First, DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is a sex hormone created from the conversion of testosterone that binds to androgen receptors on hair follicles. The effects of DHT cause hair follicles to shrink, leading to hair loss in men.
The current studies on foods that block DHT are limited. However, some preliminary research suggests that foods like pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, turmeric, soy, green tea, onions and lycopene-rich foods may block DHT.
While the research on DHT blocker foods is limited, there are effective and proven treatment options for hair growth, such as the medications minoxidil and finasteride, biotin supplements and hair care products containing saw palmetto.
Hair loss is an especially frustrating thing to deal with. While genetics and DHT play a large role in a receding hairline or shedding hair, what you eat may help or hurt your hair's health. Some foods may block the production of DHT but until there’s more research on whether or not these really fight hair loss, you can explore more scientifically-proven hair loss treatments.
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Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.