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14 Effects of DHT + How to Increase & Decrease It

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology) | Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

DHT is commonly associated with pubertal changes and baldness in men. However, DHT has various health benefits and is possibly effective at improving certain diseases. Read on to learn the benefits, risks, and how to increase/decrease it.

DHT

What is DHT?

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a sex hormone created from testosterone in the body. It plays a major role in the development of masculine characteristics (body hair, muscle growth, and a deep voice).

DHT is critical to the development of the penis and prostate in men. It’s a much more powerful hormone than testosterone and plays a major role in male-pattern baldness [1].

Men with an enzyme (5-AR) deficiency are unable to make DHT from testosterone and have reduced development and function of reproductive organs [2].

DHT activates androgen receptors needed for sexual differentiation during fetal development and changes in males during puberty. It is also necessary for maintaining a sex drive in men [3].

DHT is a sex hormone created from testosterone, but more powerful. It maintains sex drive and develops masculine characteristics in men.

9 Potential Effects of DHT

1) Blood Sugar Control

DHT may help those with diabetes and high blood sugar by regulating glucose metabolism [4].

According to a study on mice, it may lower blood sugar levels and help with type 2 diabetes in males. Application of DHEA to rats increased levels of DHT and improved insulin-sensitivity, weight, and body fat [5, 6].

2) Memory

Men between the ages of 34 and 70 showed improvements in memory when treated with DHT skin patches [7].

3) Sexual Function

DHT can improve sexual ability in men regardless of factors like age and obesity. Along with testosterone, it’s necessary to maintain a healthy sex drive in men [8, 9].

DHT helped boys born with reduced penile function. It is the main hormone to prevent erectile dysfunction in rats [10, 11].

Women with lifelong sexual abstinence were more likely to have low levels of free DHT in the blood [12].

DHT is crucial for sexual health, libido, and erections in men.

4) Heart Health

Higher levels of DHT were associated with lower amounts of fat deposits in the hearts of men with coronary artery disease (CAD) [13].

Lower levels of DHT and testosterone resulted in an increased risk for cardiovascular complications for men undergoing testosterone-lowering treatment for prostate cancer. Elderly men with higher levels of DHT have lower death rates from heart disease [14, 15].

5) Strength and Muscle Mass

In women, muscle DHT levels correlate with strength and power [16].

DHT appeared to increase muscle mass in postmenopausal rats [17].

6) Autoimmune Diseases

Men are 3-20 times less likely to get multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Graves’, Sjogren’s, and other autoimmune diseases. This may be due, in part, to male hormones having a protective effect against autoimmune conditions [18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23].

In animal models, DHT was useful in treating autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), prostatitis, Graves and uveitis by balancing the immune system. Specifically, it can lower T helper cells (Th1) that are higher in autoimmune diseases [24, 25, 26, 18, 27, 28].

Here are some effects of sex hormones on the immune system [29]:

Estrogens

Androgens

Overall: enhanced immune response Overall: diminished immune response
Enhanced antibody-mediated responses to exogenous antigens Decreased antibody production
Enhanced T-cell cytotoxicity Decreased T-cell proliferation
Increased cytokine and chemokine levels (interferon-gamma production) Alteration of the cytokine profile to decrease inflammation (including decreased interferon-gamma production)
Decreased IL-6 production Increased IL-6 and IL-10 production
Enhanced antigen-presenting cell activation Decreased MHC class II antigen expression on antigen-presenting cells
Stronger innate immune responses by increased nitric oxide production Reduced nitric oxide production

7) Healthy Cognitive Function

Declining levels of DHT and other sex hormones in older men are associated with declining cognitive function [30].

8) Anxiety & Depression

Testosterone’s anti-anxiety benefits were shown to be a result of the actions of DHT in the brain [31].

The drug finasteride, which lowers DHT levels in the blood, may induce symptoms of depression [32].

9) Bone Growth

DHT is vital for bone density – increased blood levels are associated with higher bone density in men [33].

Other

DHT relieved pain caused by diabetes in rats [34].

Negative Effects of High DHT

1) Male Pattern Baldness

A study found that a group of men with male pattern baldness had higher levels of DHT [35].

Higher levels of DHT were found in blood samples obtained from men with premature baldness [36].

2) Acne

DHT may trigger inflammatory acne [37].

3) Prostate Cancer

DHT is critical for the normal development of the prostate, but it can also contribute to benign prostate enlargement [38].

DHT can fuel prostate cancer even if testosterone production is stopped by removing the testicles [39, 40].

On the other hand, men with lower levels of DHT are more likely to get prostate cancer, have an advanced form of prostate cancer, and have a decreased survival rate for prostate cancer [41].

DHT helps the prostate develop, but too much of it can contribute to benign prostate enlargement.

4) Depression In Women

In one study, women treated for major depression had higher levels of DHT and other male sex hormones [42].

5) Male-Like Hair Growth In Women

Finasteride, which inhibits DHT production, is effective in treating women suffering from male-like hair growth [43].

Ways To Increase DHT

Discuss any significant lifestyle, diet, or supplement changes with your doctor before incorporating them into your daily regimen. Many such changes can have unexpected interactions.

Lifestyle

Foods and Nutrients

  • Dietary fat [47]
  • Zinc (with meals) [48]

Supplements

Ways To Decrease DHT

Note: most of the studies cited here are done in animal or cellular models. As with strategies to increase DHT, remember to discuss any significant changes to your lifestyle, diet, and supplement plans with your doctor to prevent unexpected interactions.

Drugs

  1. 5AR Inhibitors (Finasteride, Dutasteride): they prevent testosterone from converting into DHT [55]
  2. Testosterone (in elderly men) [56]

Supplements

  1. Red Ginseng (cell studies) [57, 58]
  2. Curcumin [59, 60]
  3. Saw Palmetto (humans) [61]

Foods and Nutrients

  1. Black Tea [62]
  2. Flaxseeds (humans) [63]
  3. Fenugreek (humans) [64]
  4. Soy + Green Tea [62]
  5. Reishi (humans) [65, 66]
  6. Copper (humans) [67]
  7. Nettle Root [68]
  8. PUFAs, especially GLA [60]
  9. Vitamin B2 [69]
  10. Pumpkin Seed Oil (humans) [70]
  11. Amla [71]

These are products that only inhibit the effects of DHT.

  1. Chyawanprash – Contains certain tannins and omega-6 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and protect hair [72]
  2. Berberine (with meals) [73]
  3. Fo-Ti [74]
  4. Black pepper – contains piperine, which has been shown to inhibit androgens like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone [75]
  5. Andrographis [76]

Takeaway

DHT is a powerful sex hormone created from testosterone. It helps develop reproductive organs and masculine characteristics in men. It also boosts libido and sexual health. Besides that, some researchers believe that DHT may support blood sugar control, mental health and cognition, bone and muscle strength, and immunity.

You can increase it by exercising, losing excess fat, and consuming healthier dietary fats and zinc.

Too much DHT may contribute to male pattern baldness, depression and hair growth in women, and prostate enlargement. According to some studies, some natural strategies may be able to lower DHT, including tea, soybean, nettle root, and pumpkin seed oil. Red ginseng, curcumin, and saw palmetto may also help.

About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen flipped the script on conventional and alternative medicine…and it worked. Growing up, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, insomnia, anxiety, and other issues that were poorly understood in traditional healthcare. Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a learning journey to decode his DNA and track his biomarkers in search of better health. Through this personalized approach, he discovered his genetic weaknesses and was able to optimize his health 10X better than he ever thought was possible. Based on his own health success, he went on to found SelfDecode, the world’s first direct-to-consumer DNA analyzer & precision health tool that utilizes AI-driven polygenic risk scoring to produce accurate insights and health recommendations. Today, SelfDecode has helped over 100,000 people understand how to get healthier using their DNA and labs.
Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, with a mission to empower people to take advantage of the precision health revolution and uncover insights from their DNA and biomarkers so that we can all feel great all of the time.

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