Beta Sitosterol is a plant sterol and it has a similar chemical structure to cholesterol. Since beta sitosterol competes with and interferes with the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, it is used in some cholesterol lowering drugs.
Besides being useful for lowering cholesterol, it is also a treatment for heart disease, BPH (a prostate problem), and for general boosting of the immune system. There are people who claim it has helped them with improving hair growth as well.
Is There Scientific Evidence that Beta Sitosterol Helps with Hair Loss?
Scientific research on the effects of beta sitosterol on countering hair loss is in its infancy. However, positive correlations are starting to appear in the scientific literature, such as: The Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine; The Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery; and The Journal of Chromatography.
1. Combining Beta Sitosterol with Saw Palmetto
In a double blind, placebo-controlled, and randomized trial of a drug containing beta sitosterol, male participants between the ages of 23 and 64 reported, after several treatments, as much as 60 percent improvement in hair regrowth.
2. Applying Directly to the Scalp
Another study focused on the anti-inflammatory qualities of beta sitosterol and suggested that it was efficacious as a topical treatment applied to the scalp.
How Does It Help with Hair Loss?
Beta sitosterol is part of a group of plant extracts called phytoesterols. It is believed to be a natural 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. This is an enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone). It is believed that beta sitosterol helps battle hair loss by blocking or slowing down the production of DHT.
There still isn’t enough evidence that this is true. It’s also believed that beta sitosterol possesses anti-inflammatory properties, and that it has some anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and even anti-fungal properties.
Again, there isn’t enough evidence to back up all these claims. But there are people who feel confident that beta sitosterol has helped them with their hair loss.
Supplementing Your Diet with Beta Sitosterol
A typical recommended dose for beta sitosterol is in the range of 350-375 mgs. It is usually recommended that you try to break it down into two or three separate doses daily. It is considered safe at much higher dosages, and some doctors recommend up to 5000 mgs for other health issues unrelated to hair loss.
It is also an inexpensive way to treat hair loss. Reports are that it usually takes five to six months to see hair significant hair regrowth, however, some people experience hair regrowth more quickly. If hair is merely thinning, a person may see improvement within weeks.
Those who have completely lost hair, who have been bald for a long time, can anticipate taking several months before seeing noticeable results but may be quicker if you’re balding at 20. The supplement is often combined with saw palmetto, or it is sometimes in a complex with campesterol and stigmasterol.
Getting More Beta Sitosterol Through Foods
The main purpose of consuming foods high in beta sitosterol is to lower one’s cholesterol. Hair loss and high cholesterol levels could be correlated, but there is no scientific consensus on the subject just yet. What we definitely know is that certain cholesterol medicines can in fact cause hair loss.
Experts say that around 2,000 milligrams of phytosterols alone could lower cholesterol levels significantly. In some cases that decrease can be as high as 20%, which can be the difference between early heart disease and living a healthy life for decades. The problem with most of these dietary sources is the fact that they are often very high in calories as well.
This can be problematic, because if someone wants to consume the above mentioned amount of the compound through natural foods, they could be looking at too many calories.
Needless to say that anyone who has cholesterol problems should not be eating more than their daily required calories.
That is the amount of calories that are required to maintain a current weight, meaning there is no weight loss or weight gain for that person.
Fortified Foods Can Help Increase Beta Sitosterol
There are fortified food items that have the same or a similar amount of calories than their regular counterparts, but they pack much more micronutrients. That is the essence of the process; they simply add excess micronutrients (usually trace elements and vitamins, or in this case, beta sitosterol) to the food.
Depending on which type of fortified foods you choose, they could contain anywhere from 400 to 1700 milligrams of beta sitosterol. It’s important to note that these numbers are for one serving, though the body cannot use the full amount (in fact, it can use a very little amount of it, see below).
This means that covering the daily needs suddenly becomes at least semi-realistic without consuming too much calories, which should be the goal of everyone, but especially of people who struggle with their cholesterol levels (and obviously often overweight).
A balanced diet that incorporates good sources of carbohydrates can do the trick too. If we want to find the best sources for beta sitosterol, we must mention nuts first. They are quite possibly the nr.1 source when it comes to this beneficial compound. They are also extremely high in calories, unfortunately.
Absorption of Beta Sitosterol for Hair Growth
Eating foods rich in beta sitosterol is very healthy for you, but when it comes to the absorption of orally taken beta sitosterol, our bodies are not very efficient.
Depending on certain factors like age, general health and what type of food you have consumed, your body may only absorb as little as 5% of the beta sitosterol that’s present.
This raises the question of looking for other alternatives, like supplementation. There are supplements that can provide improved bioavailability compared to normal food items.
This means that your body can absorb more of the compound, and it can also use it more efficiently. Bioavailability is one of the most important aspects of a diet.
Can Too Much Beta Sitosterol Contribute to Hair Loss?
There are no reports of any dosage of beta sitosterol causing hair loss. In fact, the only reports have been positive. Beta sitosterol is often prescribed for prostate enlargement, lowering cholesterol, and healing of inflammation. There is one documented case of beta sitosterol interfering with Viagra, but none whatsoever in regards to hair loss.
Are There Any Side Effects?
There are normally no reported side effects, but as with any supplement or medication, there are normally a few individuals who report problems. These are generally mild side effects. They include:
- An increase or decrease of libido
Pregnant women should probably avoid using a beta sitosterol supplement, since there isn’t enough scientific data for safe use. Beta sitosterol should not be used by those suffering from a rare condition called sitosterolemia, an inherited metabolic disorder. Also, excessive levels of beta sitosterol can increase the risk of a cardiovascular event in men who are already suffering from heart disease.
What Are Sources of Beta Sitosterol?
There are many sources of the sterol found in plants, but most people would recognize it as the active ingredient in Saw Palmetto. Other sources include:
- Pumpkin seed – this also is good at lowering DHT
- Rice bran
- Nuts (cashews, pistachios, almonds, walnuts)
- Wheat germ
- Corn oils
- Canola oil
- Lentils (pink)
- Dark chocolate (the darker the better)
What Tests Can Your MD Do to Determine If Your Hair Loss is Caused by Hormonal Imbalances?
If you feel as though you would like to leave no stone unturned, and try to get to the bottom of your hair loss issue through medical science first, there are several tests a doctor can perform to determine if you have a hormonal imbalance before you embark on a treatment plan. These are:
- Complete blood count-to test for anemia and vitamin deficiencies that can contribute to hair loss.
- Serum iron and ferritin (total iron binding capacity) -to test for anemia, which is a common cause of hair loss.
- ANA (antinuclear antibody)- to test for Lupus
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
- Estradiol (E2)
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
- Prolactin- a test to check for androgen excess.
- Progesterone (specifically applies to women)- once women stop ovulating, there can be a drop in progesterone levels. This in turn can lead to an increased production of androstenedione. This may increase problems for women similar to male pattern baldness in men. It is believed that increasing progesterone levels may restore hair growth in certain types of women who suffer from a drop in progesterone.
- Total Testosterone- Testosterone is present in both males and females. It plays a large role in health, and can cause a major impact on one’s hair growth or loss. It is becoming more apparent that an elevated testosterone level is the primary cause of hair loss, due to an increase in DHT related to it.
- Free Testosterone (T)- can attach itself to the androgen receptor, or be converted to DHT. It will bind to an androgen receptor even more strongly than T, so its potency is even higher than that of T.
- DHEA- elevated DHEA can be a signal of excess androgens.
- Androstenedione- can metabolize to testosterone in the body, leading to excess testosterone and thereby causing hair loss.
- VDRL- this is a screening test for syphilis, which commonly causes patchy hair loss.
Beta sitosterol is a plant sterol that contributes to lowering the amount of DHT in the bloodstream, and is also good for general immune health. It competes with cholesterol, thereby lowering the absorption of cholesterol by the body.
There are many food sources of beta sitosterol, but to get optimal levels for hair regrowth, supplements or topical treatments or both are usually necessary.
Treatment will generally help those with thinning hair more quickly than those who are already bald, although after a few months it can restore hair even for those who are bald.
There are very few side effects, and those reported are generally mild. Beta sitosterol taken in recommended dosages can be a safe and effective supplement in a hair restoration plan.