Pumpkin seeds offer a broad range of minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids, phytosterols, protein and fiber that makes them a particularly healthy snack or recipe addition for anyone. There are, however, some specific pumpkin seed benefits for men, involving DHT, hair loss and prostate enlargement.
DHT, Hair Loss and Pumpkin Seeds
High levels of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) circulating in the body may cause many health issues for men, especially later in life. DHT is believed to be a prime culprit in both hair loss, leading to male pattern baldness, and prostate enlargement, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia.
DHT attaches to the hair follicles on the head in men, particularly at the temples and on the crown, and shortens their growth phase. Over time, this leads to thinner and weaker hairs and noticeable hair loss. If the effect of DHT continues in this way, the hairs on the head simply stop growing in certain areas. This is seen in the common hair loss condition known as male pattern baldness.
Dihydrotestosterone is a powerful androgen that is converted from testosterone. While DHT is useful for developing male characteristics when we are growing up, once we get older too much of it can be a significant problem.
Pumpkin seeds contain two compounds that are known as DHT blockers. The first is the phytosterol beta-sitosterol, which has been shown to inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase that is responsible for converting beneficial testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. The second is a steroid called delta-7-sterine that is much less powerful than DHT. Delta-7-sterine may help block DHT by specifically competing with it at the cell receptor sites where it does its damage, such as at hair follicles and in the prostate gland.
Snacking on pumpkin seeds can potentially provide a beneficial dose of these DHT blocking nutrients. There is no guarantee that this will stop thinning hair, but a reduction in hair loss and better hair in general is often reported by men who eat pumpkin seeds regularly.
Prostate Enlargement and Pumpkin Seeds
The same DHT that is responsible for hair loss and male pattern baldness is also strongly implicated in prostate enlargement, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia. BPH is a painful condition where sufferers experience problems urinating due to an enlargement of the prostate gland that constricts the urethra.
BPH is a common problem in America, especially in older men. Yet the incidence of prostate enlargement has been found to be considerably lower in countries where pumpkin seeds are often eaten, such as Hungary and Austria.
Eating pumpkin seeds on a regular basis may help alleviate the symptoms of BPH and even reduce prostate enlargement. Once again the beta-sitosterol blocking the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, and the delta-7-sterine competing with DHT in the receptor sites of the prostate gland are believed to be responsible for this beneficial effect.
A study of treating BPH with phytosterols from an extract of pumpkin seeds showed prostate enlargement symptoms were ’significantly improved in the treatment group’. Stronger phytosterol supplements are available but pumpkin seeds are a good source of beta-sitosterol and other phytosterols that may additionally have a role in LDL cholesterol reduction.
Good levels of zinc in pumpkin seeds may also help reduce prostate problems. Zinc is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory with an important role in the production of hormones like testosterone.
Pumpkin seed nutrients also include other antioxidants and essential fatty acids that can help protect both the prostate and our hair from DHT damage.
Raw pumpkin seeds are much healthier than snacking on crisps or other fattening junk food. If you’d like to add more of them to your diet, try the crunchy pumpkin seed pesto recipe or a healthy way of roasting pumpkin seeds that taste great but preserves more of the valuable nutrients than commercially roasted pumpkin seeds.