Soybean Chemical a Powerful DHT Inhibitor
An article published in the scientific journal Biology of Reproduction (April 2004) hints at good news for pattern baldness sufferers. I'm going to quote many paragraphs from the article and intersperse a few comments. The article has the jazzy title - "Equol Is a Novel Anti-Androgen that Inhibits Prostate Growth and Hormone Feedback." It's by Trent D. Lund and other professors at Colorado University.
Isoflavones are a group of hormone-like substances that are found in soybeans and soybean products like tofu, tempeh, soy flour, and soy milk (but not soy sauce). When consumed, these isoflavones, one of which is daidzein, are converted into biologically active molecules by intestinal bacteria. It is estimated, though, that only 30 to 50 percent of people have the capacity to convert daidzein to the active molecule. The biologically active molecule that is of special interest to men with enlarged prostates or miniaturized hair follicles is called equol.
The protective effects of soy protein in cardiovascular, bone, and menopausal health appear to be a function of the biotransformation of soy isoflavones to equol. As shown in our studies, one aspect of equal's mechanism of action is apparently its ability to specifically bind DHT and prevent DHT's biological actions in physiological processes.
The action of this molecule is that it just binds the DHT and not the androgen receptor. (Saw palmetto is supposed to bind the androgen receptors and not the DHT itself, but there is much debate about this.)
Equol's anti-androgenic action is due to its unique ability to specifically bind DHT without binding the androgen receptor. As a result, equol can sequester DHT from binding the androgen receptor.
When DHT is produced by the conversion of testosterone by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, it diffuses into target cells (often the hair follicles) and binds with androgen receptors. Then this whole complex, the DHT and the protein receptor, enters into the nucleus of the cell. In the nucleus of the cell, the DHT can affect the genetic material (the DNA) which in turn can alter protein synthesis. The hair follicles and the hair itself are made from protein.
Since DHT is produced from testosterone within prostate cells [and within scalp tissue cells], this suggests that equol is capable of binding intracellular DHT to prevent it from acting.
Even though equol binds to DHT it does not change levels of DHT in the plasma. DHT is important for many physiological functions. Lowering the plasma levels the way that Propecia does might cause long-term negative side effects.
Given the high consumption of phytoestrogens [soy products] in Asian populations, our findings correlate with the low incidence rates of benign prostate hyperplasia and prostate cancer [and hair loss] in Asian men compared with Western populations.
Men in Japan still have low rates of prostate problems and hair loss except in the urban areas like Tokyo. In the big cities of Japan people are now eating a Western diet mainly of red meat and processed foods. The traditional diet in these cities is on the way out.
A Message from Jenifer
I'd like to share that since I started drinking miso soup with tempeh pieces, green onions and wakame seaweed daily, my hair is looking a lot better. If you analyze this soup you'll see that you get fermented soy (the best kind) in both the miso and the tempeh, thus it's a great source of EQUOL, and the seaweed also has a lot of hair and health benefits. Another plus is that it's so easy to make, and helps me feel more balanced nutritionally. Whatever else I may eat, I know I'm getting one of the healthiest meals there is, at little cost or effort, on a daily basis.
Dr. Lund's article from Biology of Reproduction ends with this paragraph:
The possibility exists that equol can have anti-androgenic actions on a number of tissues throughout the body. In particular, the blockade of androgen action could be beneficial not only for preventing growth of prostate tissue, but other androgen-responsive tissues may also benefit from equol therapy. Such conditions include female and male pattern baldness, facial and body hair growth, skin health (acne, anti-aging, and photo-aging), skin integrity (collagen and elastin robustness), and emotional and mental health issues, such as, mood, depression, anxiety, learning and memory.
All that might be a little too optimistic, but that will not keep me from getting some tofu, or typing in equol in the Google search engine and looking for a reputable company that makes an equol supplement.