5 Foods to Boost DHT Levels & 5-a Reductase Naturally
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Mon 24 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Vlad Belghiru, MD
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a controversial hormone. Even though it’s the male hormone of the male hormones and a lot more androgenic than testosterone, some are still scared that high levels of it could lead to hair-loss and prostate enlargement.
Whereas the prostate claim has proven to be inaccurate in multiple studies (for example: in this study, 10-fold increase in serum DHT levels had no significant effects on prostate size), the hair loss side-effect of DHT still remains partially unclear (even though in this study with 315 male subjects, it was noted that high DHT levels were associated with a -35% reduced risk of hair loss).
I’m not going to dig deeper into the subject of possible DHT side-effects in this post since I already wrote a larger post about ways to increase DHT naturally.
But a lot of you have been asking me to write more about the subject of boosting the king of androgens via good nutrition.
And that’s exactly what we’re covering here today. How to squeeze out more DHT from your everyday diet.
NOTE: I would have loved to make this post “10 Ways to Get More DHT out of Your Diet”, but given the hysteria that surrounds the possible side-effects of the hormone (sigh), it’s really hard to find anything scientifically proven about boosting DHT, since everyone and their dogs are seemingly more interested in lowering DHT (If you want to fund the research on how to boost DHT, donate to the Post-Finasteride Syndrome Foundation.)
1. Eat The Right Kinds of Fats
Dietary fat is one of the most important factors in healthy testosterone production, and not that surprising, also in dihydrotestosterone production.
This is because the increased intake of dietary fat boosts testosterone levels, and about 5-15% of that testosterone eventually converts into DHT by the actions of the 5 alpha-reductase enzymes.
Eating more dietary fat will also increase the levels of the 5-a enzyme needed for that conversion, so don’t forget to eat your damn fats.
I generally recommend about 25-35% of daily calories from fat in order to raise T and DHT levels. However, what’s more, important than the number of fats, is the type of them.
Because when it comes down to DHT boosting fatty-acids, all of them are definitely not created equal:
a) It’s a well-known fact that PUFAs, aka. polyunsaturated fatty acids (especially the rancid ones from processed vegetable oils) lower testosterone levels, and therefore also DHT levels. PUFAs also directly inhibit the formation of 5 alpha-reductase enzyme in the following inhibitory potency: Gamma-linolenic acid -> Alpha-Linolenic acid -> Linoleic-acid -> Palmitoleic-acid -> Oleic-acid -> Myristoleic-acid.
b) Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) on the other hand seem to increase testosterone and DHT levels (study, study, study, study). However, certain saturated fatty acids can have a slight inhibitory effect on the 5-a reductase enzyme, at least if you believe this test-tube study where medium-chain fatty acids (those commonly found in tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil) reduced 5-a activity.
NOTE: That above study is not strong enough evidence for me to stop using coconut oil since coconut oil can increase testosterone production, but if your only goal is to get high DHT, then perhaps don’t go crazy with the stuff.
Boosting DHT levels with dietary fat is very similar to that of using dietary fat for testosterone optimization. Just eat a lot of saturated and monounsaturated fatty-acids, while keeping your PUFA intake low. Also, if your goal is to maximize DHT production, then there’s some evidence that lowering the intake of medium-chain fatty-acids (coconut and palm oil) can be beneficial (but it’s not mandatory).
2. Eat More Carbs and Less Protein
This flies directly into the face of many fitness enthusiasts and protein bros.
You should eat less protein, more carbs. At least that is, if you want to maintain high testosterone and DHT levels.
There’s a lot of evidence showing that diets higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein are great for testosterone production (study, study, study)…
…And one study in particular which showed that a low-protein high-carb diet was superior in boosting DHT levels when compared to a high-protein low-carb diet, due to the fact that higher carbohydrate intake was associated with increased production of the 5 alpha-reductase enzyme.
NOTE: If you’re looking to furthermore bump-up your DHT production via carbohydrates, then consider adding a grain by the name of sorghum to your diet, it increased 5-a enzyme levels by 54%.
I personally go by the carb to protein ratio of 3:1, and for me, that is 60% carbs 20% protein. According to the study above, you could even go higher on carbs and lower on protein than the 2:1 example, but that could be detrimental for your gains in the gym.
3. Consider Organic Foods
Organic foods may not taste that different than conventional produce, and they’re a hell of a lot more expensive too.
Hence, why a lot of people claim that it’s just a waste of money.
From a hormonal point of view, it’s definitely not a waste of money to eat organic though.
Several pesticides generously sprayed on conventional crops have shown to be strong anti-androgens that work by disrupting testosterone synthesis, DHT conversion, and 5-a reductase enzyme activity in the body (study, study, study).
I’m not saying that you have to completely stop eating conventional foods, but if you want to limit your exposure to anti-androgenic pesticides, then it’s not a bad idea to invest a bit on the quality of the stuff that goes into your mouth.
4. Drink More Coffee and Less Tea
I have great news for all you coffee fanatics, and some rather bad ones for tea lovers.
First of, the bad news: green tea catechins, at least according to this animal study, have 5-a enzyme inhibiting effects…
…Even worse, in this rodent study, theaflavins from black tea lowered DHT levels by -72% and 5-a enzyme levels by -89%.
Then for the good news: Caffeine has the opposite effect, it has increased testosterone levels in few human studies, and in this rodent study, caffeine increased testosterone by 68% and DHT by 57%. According to another study, caffeine acts as a catalyst to the 5 alpha-reductase enzymes.
Relying on the evidence above, more coffee and less tea = more DHT.
5. Avoid Soy and Other Phytoestrogens
It’s a well-known fact that phytoestrogen consumption increases estrogen levels, reduces testosterone levels, and has a negative impact on DHT conversion through the already lowered T, and also because many phytoestrogens act as 5-a inhibitors.
Therefore consuming high amounts of foods and drinks that contain phytoestrogens, such as hops, flax, licorice, soy, etc, can easily become detrimental to your DHT levels.
The phytoestrogenic isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, and glyciteinin) in soy are likely the worst offenders when it comes to DHT since this study shows that men who consume a lot of these soy isoflavones (and also green tea!), produce high amounts of equol in their gut. Another study from 2004 shows that equol is a strong anti-androgen that binds and sequesters DHT from its receptor, rendering the androgen inactive.
So, to keep your DHT levels high and the receptor sites active, maybe cut down on the phytoestrogen consumption.
There you go, 5 simple ways to milk some more DHT from your everyday diet.