DHT? Nope. Everything we knew about hair loss was wrong

It might be worth reconsidering everything you’ve read about DHT and hair loss. Because there’s another hormone that may be far more important.

Cortisol hormone might, in fact, be a much more important factor in the male pattern hair loss equation.

I realize that may contradict much of what you’ve read before, but bear with me.

Cortisol is the primary hormone produced by the endocrine system when the brain computes perceptions that cause a stress response based on memories. For example, if your brain associates public speaking with stress, your endocrine system will produce more cortisol when you’re speaking in public.

The body has evolved this system to aid survival when the senses perceive information which the memory associates with stress.

Prolonged elevated cortisol: the hair destroyer

The problem comes when the body goes into a state of ‘prolonged elevated cortisol’.

Extended stress leads to extended periods of high cortisol levels. While the Adrenal Glands are busy making extra cortisol, they make less of the hormones that support healthy hair growth. Sustained high cortisol levels can also lead to other health problems, including a decrease in cell regeneration, impaired mental function, decreased metabolism, and a weakened immune system

Nutrafol hair expert

But prolonged elevated cortisol causes hair loss in several other ways, making it perhaps the biggest underlying cause of hair loss.

Cortisol increases DHT — the primary cause of male pattern baldness

When cortisol interacts with testosterone, DHT is produced. This next bit may be too technical for some, but to summarise; the research has shown that elevated cortisol causes increased 5-alpha-reductase. 5-alpha-reductase is the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT.

5alpha-R isozymes (5alpha-R1 and 5alpha-R2) mRNA and protein levels were detected in prefrontal cortex of male and female rats after they underwent environmental stresses, i.e., excessive heat, artificial light, and the sensation of immobility in a small space, similar to those found in common workplace situations. Results showed significantly higher 5alpha-R2 mRNA and protein levels in environmentally-stressed versus control rats.

Sanchez P et al

Or in simple words: more cortisol equals more DHT as well as directly reducing hair growth by restricting the release of the hormones required for hair growth. But there’s more to it — and it gets much worse!

The Nobel Prize-winning revelation: elevated cortisol causes us to age faster

Prolonged stress has also be shown in studies to have a profound impact on something called ‘telomeres’ — causing them to deteriorate at an extremely accelerated rate.

Unfortunately there is a very distinct inverse correlation between telomere length and health (including aging) — The shorter your telemore the faster you age:

Telemores protect chromosomes from deteriorating. They can be imagined as like the plastic that protects the ends of shoes laces. Just like a shoe lace frays when the protective end wears away, chromosomes deteriorate faster when their protective telemores deteriorate. See Perceived stress and telomere length (Mathur MB, et al):

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Psychological stress contributes to numerous diseases and may do so in part through damage to telomeres, protective non-coding segments on the ends of chromosomes.

By the way, the researchers who discovered this connection won a Nobel prize for the discovery.

The truth is staring us in the face

If you look around at people you know, you’ll begin to realize this is happening to men all the time.

Believe it or not, James Gandolfini (AKA Tony Soprano) suffered for years from debilitating anxiety disorder. It just goes to show it’s hard to tell sometimes — people hide it so well. But one sure sign is hair loss. Source

Take a look at every man you’ve ever seen with premature hair loss. They all have one thing in common: high cortisol and often high testosterone (but not always).

Cortisol is the key, not testosterone.

Celebrities with anxiety and hair loss

Just take a look at any number of examples of people and you’ll see it doesn’t matter if they’ve had a stressful life or not. What matters is how their brain and endocrine systems react to the perceived stress.

Stress can take several forms. Whether it be anxiety, depression, anger or other forms. Some people are ‘lucky’ (that’s debatable by the way) to not be particularly badly affected by stress. Others however are badly affected by stress, which is sometimes reflected by loss of hair.

It’s not the stress that causes the hair loss: it’s the way the individual deals with the stress

It’s not the stress that causes the hair loss. In fact the root cause of male pattern baldness is the way some men’s endocrine systems and brains interact badly in certain situations, causing their bodies to produce very high DHT levels.

This alone is not enough to cause rapid premature hair loss. There is extremely strong evidence that prolonged elevated cortisol has a serious effect hair loss on its own. It does this in several ways.

There are of course many other factors that seem to contribute to hair loss. Take for examples elevated scalp PGD2, low scalp PGE2 and low scalp IGF-1. All of these things have been shown to be far more prevalent in balding scalps. Interestingly PGD2 and PGE2 are almost certainly linked to DHT — which is increased by prolonged elevated cortisol. IGF1