For around two-thirds of men in the United States, it’s inevitable by the age of 35. That feeling you get when you regularly start noticing hair on the pillow, or after you comb your hair .
And just the thought of losing your hair can bring about a whole host of new anxiety issues.
You might wonder how much longer you’ve got till there’s a noticeable change in your appearance, and how that would affect your social and work life.
And there are plenty of companies that are aware of these vulnerabilities, and the hair-loss “cures” they promise can range from questionable to downright false, or even dangerous.
But there might be evidence to suggest that sulforaphane, a plant compound found in cruciferous vegetables, can offer some hope to those who are experiencing hair loss.
Here, we’ll discuss the major causes of hair loss, how sulforaphane might be able to slow or stop hair loss, as well as some of the best sources of sulforaphane.
The causes and risk factors of hair loss
To understand how sulforaphane can prevent or slow hair loss, let’s take a quick look at one of the biggest causes of male pattern baldness.
And while this phenomenon is predominant in men, especially at an early age, it works similarly for women who might also experience hair loss later in life.
The official term for male pattern baldness is androgenic alopecia .
DHT and hair loss
One of the biggest factors in androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness) is Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a sex hormone linked with testosterone .
Both testosterone and DHT are responsible for typically male characteristics like a deeper voice, more body hair, and greater muscle mass.
Although testosterone is present in both men and women, men usually have more of the hormone than women. And about 10 percent of testosterone gets converted to DHT through an enzyme known as 5-alpha reductase (5-AR).
So, what does all of this have to do with hair loss?
It matters because DHT interacts with hair follicles and causes them to shrink. And over time, those follicles produce thinner and brittle hair, until eventually, the hair stops growing altogether.
So, the more DHT levels around your hair follicles, the more likely you’re to experience greater hair loss.
So, why don’t all men go bald?
Statistically speaking, most men do lose at least some of their hair. By the time they reach the age of 50, around 85 percent of men will have considerably thinner hair .
But the question is at what age you start losing hair, and how much. It has to do with genetics and hormone levels.
Just like some men have deeper voices and more body hair than others, some men also start losing their hair at a relatively younger age.
And it’s not just your DHT levels that matter, but also the amount in which it is present in your scalp.
As you probably already know, your family’s history of baldness can be a strong indication of the likelihood of you losing hair at a younger age .
Can sulforaphane stop hair loss?
Now let’s examine if, and how, sulforaphane might be able to help you maintain a thick head of hair.
One 2016 Japanese study looked at the effects of sulforaphane on DHT, and specifically, its impact on hair growth .
For the study, mice were given sulforaphane for six weeks to see if there were any effects on hair and plasma levels of DHT.
After six weeks, the mice that took sulforaphane experienced significant hair regeneration, and also lower levels of plasma DHT.
What might explain hair regeneration in mice?
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The researchers suggested that sulforaphane promotes the enzyme 3 alpha-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (3α-HSDs), which helps break down DHT.
By helping break down DHT, sulforaphane may protect the hair follicles from suppression, allowing for better hair growth.
Caution about sulforaphane and hair loss
Even though the Japanese study mentioned above showed promising results, we can’t say the evidence is conclusive.
The study was conducted on mice, and we don’t know if similar results would translate to humans.
And even if sulforaphane helps break down DHT in humans, we don’t know if it would lower plasma DHT overall, or around the scalp, which seems to be the key factor when it comes to stopping hair loss.
That being said, sulforaphane is an extremely beneficial compound with solid research backing its other benefits, such as detoxification, improved cognitive function, and even the reduction of risk of diseases like cancer .
So, even if the evidence isn’t rock-solid for hair loss, consuming more sulforaphane will only help improve your overall health. And if it actually stops hair loss, even better!
Best sources of sulforaphane for hair loss
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc., are the best sources of sulforaphane.
But there is a catch. You only get a significant dose of sulforaphane from vegetables if you eat it raw.
That has to do with an enzyme known as myrosinase.
Sulforaphane and Myrosinase
The way it works is, sulforaphane is created from compounds known as isothiocyanates found in cruciferous vegetables.
When you chew, chop, or crush broccoli, kale, etc., you activate the enzyme called myrosinase, which transforms isothiocyanates into bioavailable sulforaphane .
The problem is that when you heat vegetables, it ruins the myrosinase enzymes. That means, not enough sulforaphane is created from isothiocyanates, and you get less of the beneficial compound.
But here are some of the best bioavailable sources of sulforaphane.
Broccoli sprouts: the best sulforaphane source?
The ideal source of sulforaphane is broccoli sprouts. You can easily sprout broccoli seeds in your kitchen by following this video from Dr. Rhonda Patrick.
Broccoli sprouts have a far higher concentration of sulforaphane when compared to regular broccoli, and it is also one of the most bioavailable sources.
If you don’t have time to make broccoli sprouts, or you get tired of eating too many sprouts each day, you can switch to a sulforaphane supplement.
But sulforaphane is an unstable compound, and only a couple of supplements have been clinically proven to do what they promise.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s favorite sulforaphane supplement is Avmacol. It includes the myrosinase enzyme for better absorption.
Get more sulforaphane from cooked broccoli
One of the ways that you can get more sulforaphane out of cooked broccoli is to sprinkle some mustard seeds on it.
Mustard seeds are rich in myrosinase, and adding it to broccoli helps the formation of sulforaphane. According to one study, mustard seeds quadrupled the bioavailability of sulforaphane in cooked broccoli .
Or you can also eat some daikon radish with your broccoli. Daikon radish is rich in myrosinase, and it will also increase the bioavailability of sulforaphane .
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So can Sulforaphane stop hair loss?
If you’re considering sulforaphane to prevent or slow hair loss, you should approach with a “can’t hurt to try” attitude.
In fact, sulforaphane is an extremely beneficial compound with potent antioxidant effects. It may aid detoxification, promote better brain health, and reduce the risk of several diseases, just to name a few benefits.
So, even if it doesn’t prevent hair loss, you’ll most likely benefit your overall health significantly.
As far as hair loss, there are still too many unanswered questions to say whether sulforaphane can work. But you should still give it a try; it might end up as the hair loss solution you’ve been looking for all along!
Products mentioned in this article
- Avmacol Extra Strength #1 Researched Sulforaphane-Producing Brand for Detoxification, Antioxidant Support, Immune Health, Adults & Children, Nutramax Laboratories Consumer Care, Moringa, 30 Tablets
- Anthony's Organic Brown Mustard Seeds, 3 lb, Gluten Free, Non GMO, Keto Friendly
- ^ https://www.americanhairloss.org/men_hair_loss/introduction.html
- ^ https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/androgenetic-alopecia/
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171668/
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5308812/
- ^ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26923074/
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6141106/
- ^ https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/myrosinase
- ^ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29806738/
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6085252/