Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a hormone similar to testosterone that’s thought to contribute to hair loss in both men and women.
Your body naturally converts about 5% of testosterone into DHT using an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase (1Trusted Source).
By blocking this enzyme, many foods are thought to decrease DHT production from testosterone and prevent hair loss (2Trusted Source).
Here are 6 foods that may fight hair loss by blocking DHT.
1. Green tea
Derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, green tea is one of the most popular drinks worldwide.
During production, green tea leaves are steamed — and not fermented as is often the case with oolong and black tea leaves — which maintains more of the tea’s natural compounds (3Trusted Source).
This includes one of green tea’s primary plant chemicals called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been associated with health benefits like weight loss, heart health, and brain health (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
EGCG has also been shown to protect hair follicles — the part of your skin that grows hair — from hair loss caused by DHT (7Trusted Source).
When applied to the scalps of three men for 4 days, an alcohol extract of EGCG stimulated hair growth by preventing the death of cells that regulate the growth and development of hair caused by DHT (8Trusted Source).
While this study has many limitations related to its small sample size and short treatment duration, it helps pave the way for further research on the topic.
Green tea extract supplements commonly contain standardized amounts of EGCG but have not been shown to combat hair loss caused by DHT. They have also been linked to liver damage in certain populations (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Ultimately, additional studies in humans are needed to better determine whether drinking green tea or taking EGCG or green tea supplements blocks DHT and fights hair loss.
2. Coconut oil
Coconut oil comes from the kernel or meat of coconuts.
It’s commonly used for cooking thanks to its ability to withstand high cooking temperatures. The oil also has various applications in beauty, skin care, hair care, and overall health.
Coconut oil contains a high percentage of fat from medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), primarily in the form of lauric acid, which has been shown to block DHT production in test-tube and animal studies when provided orally (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
While these types of studies — known as preclinical studies — help researchers identify whether a specific treatment may be effective or safe, their results can’t be translated to humans.
As such, clinical studies in humans are needed before coconut oil can be recommended for preventing or treating hair loss.
3. Onions (and other foods rich in quercetin)
White onions add a sweet yet sharp flavor to an abundance of dishes.
In preclinical studies, quercetin has been shown to inhibit the production of DHT from testosterone by blocking the action of the enzyme alpha-5 reductase and decreasing oxidative stress (16Trusted Source).
For example, when combined with a commonly prescribed medication to treat hair loss, quercetin was shown to decrease DHT production in rats (17Trusted Source).
Despite these promising results, no studies have investigated the effects of eating onions or taking quercetin supplements on DHT levels in humans.
Other fruits and vegetables rich in quercetin include asparagus, spinach, kale, apples, and berries (15Trusted Source).
Turmeric is an herb widely used in cooking and as a powder extract for its health benefits.
It has been shown to reduce pain from arthritis, improve cholesterol levels, and enhance exercise recovery, among other benefits (18Trusted Source).
These effects are linked to turmeric’s high concentration of active compounds called curcuminoids, the most studied of which is curcumin.
However, whether these results translate to humans remains unknown.
5. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin is a winter squash and symbol of fall festivities like Halloween.
Interestingly, pumpkin seed oil may promote hair growth in men.
In a 24-week study in 76 men with male pattern hair loss, those taking a 400-mg pumpkin seed oil supplement daily had significantly more hair growth than those receiving a placebo. However, there were no significant differences in hair thickness between the groups (22Trusted Source).
These findings were attributed to pumpkin seed oil’s ability to inhibit DHT production from testosterone by blocking the alpha-5 reductase enzyme. The supplement used for the study, however, contained other active ingredients that may have contributed to the results (22Trusted Source).
As such, additional trials in humans are necessary before pumpkin seed oil can be recommended for fighting hair loss.
Edamame beans are young soybeans typically enjoyed as a snack or appetizer.
In addition to being packed with protein and fiber, edamame beans contain isoflavones, which are beneficial plant compounds that may lower DHT levels by blocking the action of 5-alpha reductase.
In one 6-month study, 58 men were randomized to supplement their diets with either soy protein high in isoflavones, soy protein that had most of the isoflavones removed, or milk protein (23Trusted Source).
After 3 and 6 months, the soy protein supplements — regardless of isoflavone content — reduced DHT levels more than milk protein did. While this decrease in DHT was not significant after 6 months, it may still have clinical significance or practical importance.
Moreover, since the beneficial effects were also seen with soy protein that had most of its isoflavones removed, soy may contain other active components connected to these effects.
Another study in men observed similar results, suggesting that consuming soy protein — whether it’s low or high in isoflavones — may lower DHT levels (24Trusted Source).
It’s worth noting that although consuming soy is commonly thought to decrease testosterone levels in men, most available evidence suggests that this does not apply if it’s consumed in moderation (23Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
Regardless, additional studies in humans are needed to determine the effects of consuming edamame or other soy products on DHT levels and hair loss.
Other ways to treat hair loss
Many foods contain nutrients that have shown promise for lowering DHT levels, but more research in humans is needed.
If you experience hair loss, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to review your medical history and identify any potential reasons for your hair loss to determine the proper treatment.
Medications like minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia) have been shown to help treat hair loss. Minoxidil is a vasodilator, meaning it dilates your blood vessels, while finasteride is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor that blocks DHT production (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
Nevertheless, these medications can have negative side effects, such as breast swelling and tenderness, irregular menstruation, headaches, and decreased libido, which must be taken into consideration (29Trusted Source).
It’s also possible that a vitamin or mineral deficiency is contributing to your hair loss, in which case a supplement may be needed (30Trusted Source).
For example, one study including over 500 women from Switzerland found that 38% of them had a deficiency in biotin, a B vitamin that plays a role in hair health (31Trusted Source).
The bottom line
DHT is a hormone that contributes to hair loss in both men and women.
Green tea, onions, pumpkin seeds, and edamame, among other foods and beverages, contain nutrients that may lower DHT levels and prevent hair loss.
However, based on the limited research, additional studies in humans are needed before — in the absence of a nutrient deficiency — any foods or specific nutrients can be recommended to prevent hair loss.
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