DHT is a gift given to us by Mother Nature but somehow, a lot of men have the idea that this is a bad hormone. The reason being is that DHT is linked to hair loss and we have to admit – none of us want to lose our hair. Although some of us shave our heads from time to time, none of us want to be bald permanently.
Additionally, excess DHT has also been linked to prostate issues and no man wants that, too. Pharmaceutical companies have taken advantage of these very reasons and have now made tons and tons of money out of DHT inhibitors.
In testosterone boosters, a lot of products also inhibit DHT for reasons of increasing levels of “free” testosterone but trust me when I say that DHT isn’t as bad as pharmaceutical companies make it out to be. Allow me to show you.
WHAT IS DHT?
Simply said, Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is an androgen.
In more detail, Dihydrotestosterone is an endogenous androgen and therefore plays a role in developing male characteristics. Obviously, the name itself already suggests that it’s closely related to testosterone. But what exactly is DHT’s relation and difference to test?
TESTOSTERONE VS DHT
Testosterone is the most abundant male hormone in the human body with around 10.4–24.3 nmol/L found in adult males. Consequently, 5-10% of testosterone is converted to Dihydrotestosterone in adults while higher levels are found in adolescents. That being said, DHT is considered to be a key factor in triggering puberty.
With testosterone being the most abundant, it also becomes our body’s primary sex hormone. However, by no means is it the principal androgen. Let’s check out some numbers:
- DHT binds to androgenic receptors with 2-3 times greater affinity compared to testosterone
- DHT binds to androgenic receptors 15-30 times higher than that of adrenal androgens
- DHT dissociates or separates from androgenic receptors 5x slower than testosterone
- The biological half-life of DHT is longer than testosterone
In simple terms, Dihydrotestosterone binds to androgenic receptors better than testosterone and adrenal androgens. Once it is bound to these said receptors, it also stays there longer. All these contribute to DHT being 2.5-10 times more potent than testosterone.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU HAVE ABNORMAL LEVELS OF DHT?
First of all, you have to remember that Dihydrotestosterone plays a key role in the male sexual development. In adults, levels of DHT are much higher in the prostate compared to testosterone which makes it the primary androgen in the prostate gland. In the young, specifically in embryogenesis, Dihydrotestosterone is essential to the development of the external genitalia. DHT also plays a role in developing male characteristics such body hair.
That said, it should be expected that abnormal levels of DHT would lead to abnormalities in these same places.
Having already said that Dihydrotestosterone is found at high levels in the prostate, prostate issues such as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) or enlargement of the prostate have been linked to excessive levels of DHT. Although this is common belief, research on this looks inconclusive.
As men grow older, it is typical for testosterone levels to drop and levels of estrogen and Dihydrotestosterone to rise. For this very reason, one of the leading theories surrounding BPH is that an increase in the estrogen to testosterone ratio plays a key role in the development of enlarged prostates.
Admittedly though, the treatment of BPH includes 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs). These drugs lower the levels of DHT by inhibiting the conversion of testosterone to Dihydrotestosterone so DHT probably does play a role in the development of BPH. However, by restricting testosterone conversion, it also gives rise to higher levels of testosterone and a healthier testosterone to estrogen ratio.
Whether the effectivity of 5-ARIs relies on lowering DHT or increasing testosterone remains to be blurry. As such, it is simply false to focus the blame on BPH solely on Dihydrotestosterone.
MALE PATTERN BALDNESS
In reality, DHT does play a role in hair loss and 5-ARIs have also been used to treat male pattern baldness. However, most of the blame has to go to genetics. In fact, according to this study, the most important factor in male baldness appears to be “the genetically-determined sensitivity of the follicles to DHT”.
If your genes dictate that your hair follicles be sensitive to DHT, then male pattern baldness will almost be inevitable. 5-ARIs help in curbing this by lowering levels of Dihydrotestosterone. Hence, even with sensitive follicles, lowering levels of Dihydrotestosterone might control hair loss.
Here is where you’ll really see the importance of Dihydrotestosterone. It’s a condition that affects males in their developmental stages in the womb and during puberty.
As I’ve already said, DHT is derived from testosterone through conversion. With little to no amounts of 5-alpha reductase, there will also be lesser to no conversion of testosterone to Dihydrotestosterone leading to deficient levels of DHT.
Men suffering from this condition are born with abnormal external genitalia. If I had to be frank, this basically means that men with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency are born with a penis the size of a tic tac. Because of this, a lot of these unfortunate males are raised as women.
During puberty, these men develop secondary male characteristics such as deepening of the voice, growth spurt, and even gain muscle mass. Basically, their bodies will look male but under their pants will still be an underdeveloped penis that’ll look more like a clitoris. Also, because of the lack of sexual development, most of them will be infertile and are unable to father children.
WILL DHT AFFECT MUSCLE GROWTH?
With a large percentage of testosterone boosters that also aim to enhance muscle undercutting DHT for more testosterone, it’s very easy to think that DHT doesn’t affect muscle growth.
To a degree, these testosterone boosting supplements are doing it right. 5-alpha-reductase isn’t found in skeletal muscle so therefore, testosterone doesn’t convert to Dihydrotestosterone in these areas, right? Yeah, that might very well be true. However, a study has shown that DHT increased amino acid uptake in skeletal muscle.
Additionally, another study suggests that “DHT promotes protein synthesis, cell signaling, cell proliferation and ATP production, as well as muscle contraction and relaxation”.
Admittedly though, these are studies conducted on rats and human research is still needed to confirm these effects. Still, I think it’s too early to say that DHT has no effect on muscle growth.
In terms of boosting testosterone and enhancing muscle growth, there’s another important point that you should be mindful of. Some test boosting nutrients, Fenugreek for example, increases levels of testosterone by working as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors. While this does effectively increase levels of “free” testosterone for use in muscle development, it does so by reducing DHT.
Muscle and testosterone is good, yes, but a decrease in DHT results in an overall decrease in androgens and as a man, that’s something you wouldn’t want to have and it’s something you might want to look out for when checking out testosterone boosting supplements.
There’s a way around this though. Some T-boosting stacks that use Fenugreek pair this ingredient with something else that boosts DHT. This effectively counters the DHT depleting effects of some ingredients while still raising levels of test. Test Freak, for instance, is a powerful testosterone booster that’s mainly powered by Fenugreek but they counter this herb’s negative effects on DHT by including a proprietary blend solely for the purpose of supporting DHT. There are other testosterone boosters with similar strategies but in my opinion, Test Freak serves as the best example.
To end this article, let me just say that no, DHT isn’t a bad hormone. The bad reputation that it gets is overblown and frankly, a little bit unjustified.
Admittedly, too much Dihydrotestosterone can lead to unwanted side effects such as balding and probably even prostate issues. However, It’s unfair to place all the blame on DHT and just brush it to the side altogether as if it doesn’t play a single role in male health.
Remember, if you were deficient in DHT to start with, you might not even have a penis. My advise? Don’t recklessly alter your DHT levels. If you think you have too much or too little, check with your doctor first before taking any action.