Friday, January 13, 2012

Problems with High or Low DHT? Use Rice or Safflower to Inhibit and Sorghum to Promote 5-Alpha Reductase!

Image 1: High or too low DHT levels? Nature has the cure for both. Lower your DHT levels with rice bran or safflower flower extracts or raise it with a crude extract from Sorghum bicolor seeds.
Hairloss for men, and even more so for women, is certainly one of the nastiest side effects of either naturally or artificially induced hormonal disturbances. And while the vilification of DHT as the #1 inducer of male pattern baldness and a potential cause of female hair loss may be overblown, it is a well-established fact that (over-)expression of DHT, or rather a high / over-activity of the 5a-reductase enzyme which converts testosterone to the ~10x more potent androgen dihydrotestosterone will, over time, lead to a shrinkage and gradual disappearance of affected hair follicles. In that, it is noteworthy that similar to the carcinogenic effects estrogen exerts on female (and male) breast tissue, it is mostly the local and not so much the systemic reduction of testosterone to DHT, or, in the case of estrogen, the "aromatization" of testosterone into estrogen, which causes the problems.

In view of the fact that DHT appears to play a role in the etiology of prostate cancer, as well the results of test-tube studies on the effects of rice and safflower extracts on the 5a reductase in human DU-145 prostate cells Warintorn Ruksiriwanich and his colleagues present in their latest paper in The Journal of Supercritical Fluids, could well hold the key to natural alternatives to the currently available pharmacological 5a-reductase inhibitors finasteride and dustasteride (Rukisiriwanich. 2011).

Rice and safflower extracts are potent 5a-reductase inhibitors

In their initial experiment the researchers had determined that of the 10 edible plant crude extracts they had prepared by either supercritical carbon dioxide fluid (scCO2) low temperature treatment or ethanolic maceration, the rice (Oryza Sativa L.) and the Safflower (Carthamus tinctorus L.) which had been prepared by the scCO2 method yielded the largest amount of unsaturated fatty acids (cf. figure 1):
Figure 1: Fatty acid composition (left) and total polyphenol content (right) of the ten edible plant extracts after scCO2 processing (data adapted from Rukisiriwanich. 2011).
The sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) extract took a close third place, but lacked the gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) content which sets the rice and the safflower extracts apart from peanuts, soybeans, flax, lotus, sesame, and, obviously, corn. The sunflower extract, on the other hand, had the highest total phenolic content, but lacked the "essential" polyunsaturated fatty acids, of which we are going to see that they are the driving forces behind the 5ar inhibition both the rice, as well as the safflower extracts exerted on the prostate cells upon incubation at 0.1mg/ml (cf. figure 2):
Figure 2: 5a-reductase activity of essential fatty acids, pharmacological agents and rice, safflower and sorghum extracts and respective fractions (data adapted from Rukisiriwanich. 2011).
If you scrutinize the results in figure 2, you will notice that further processing (fractions #1 to #4; intended to produce an even more concentrated and thusly more potent extract) did not improve the inhibitory effect of the crude rice extract and profoundly reduced the anti-5ar activity of the safflower extract. In view of the fact that, at the given dosage of 0.1mg/ml the crude rice and safflower were more potent than their pharmacological rivals, dustasteride and finasteride, this is yet another item to be added to my never-ending list of evidence for the genuine truth behind my favorite saying: Nature knows best!

Image 2: If you look like this, you better go
get some sorghum bicolor extract, right away ;-)
Sorghum increases 5a-reductase by more than 50%!

Moreover, nature appears to be similarly aware of the fact that ridicolously low levels of the male hormone par excellence are likewise undesirable for men - pseudohermaphroditism, an extreme case of which you can see in image 2 is one of the common consquences of low / lack of 5ar in men (cf. Sinnecker. 1996). I mean how else would you explain that she invented Sorghum bicolor, a grass species that originated in northern Africa, and is now cultivated widely in tropical and subtropical regions turns out to increase 5a-reductase activity by at least 54%?

How does this work? I mean is there finasteride in rice?

These astonishing results raise the question what exactly is responsible for these non-negligible effects of the plant extracts. To answer this question the scientists performed one of their "dreaded" correlation analysis (you know that is what the American Heart Health Association sponsors to then confuse correlation with causation and tell us that cholesterol causes heart disease ;-) and came up with a whole bunch of highly correlated variables (Pearson coefficients >0.9). Of the 10 tested variables, the linoleic and total unsaturated fatty acid content of the crude rice, as well as the same ingredients in fraction #3 of the crude rice extract were yet the only ones which showed a significant (p < 0.05, crude extract) and highly significant correlation (p < 0.01, fraction #3) with the 5ar activity of the respective compounds.

The fact that these statistical shenanigans did not yield significant correlations for any of the ingredients of the crude safflower extract and its inhibitory effect  (which by the way was within one standard deviation identical to the one of the rice extract!) on 5a-reductase makes me question the validity, or I should say "significance" *rofl* of this analysis. After all, their own analysis, as well as previous studies (e.g. Pham. 2002) clearly show that on a mg/ml base gamma linoleic acid (GLA) is a much more potent inhibitor of 5a-reductase activity than linoleic acid... but hey, why even bother? I mean, if nature knows best, anyway, let's just trust her and rely on the crude extracts - or should I say "nature's proprietary blends". I guess, if Oryza sativa bran or Carthamus tinctorus flower extracts prevent your hair from falling out and your prostate from carcinogenic growth, or a crude extract from Sorghum bicolor seeds effectively restores your virility, you probably won't care if it was the LA, the GLA or whatever else nature has packed into the bran, flower and seeds that was responsible for these effects - the only caveat is in vivo human data is still lacking ;-/