Beta-sitosterol is one of several plant sterols and can be found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.1 Research suggests that beta-sitosterol may be helpful for reducing hair loss. Let’s take a look at the research and see if and how beta-sitosterol may work for hair loss.
Is Beta-Sitosterol Helpful for Hair Growth?
In a randomized, doubled-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers aimed to determine the effects of botanically derived 5-alpha reductase inhibitors on 26 men with mild to moderate forms of androgenetic alopecia. The participants were given either a placebo or a combination of 50 mg of beta-sitosterol, 10 mcg of biotin, 50 mg of lecithin, 100 mg of inositol, 25 mg of phosphatidylcholine, 15 mg of niacin, and 200 mg of saw palmetto 85-95% liposteric extract twice per day.
The study found that 60 percent of the participants who took this treatment showed signs of improvement in their hair loss symptoms. Only 10 percent of the control group participants showed any improvements.2 This suggests that beta-sitosterol and/or any of the other ingredients used in the study are effective in reducing hair loss.
In another study, researchers looked at the effects of topical beta-sitosterol phyto-vesicles on rats that received topical testosterone treatment. The study found that rats treated only with testosterone experienced fur loss because the additional testosterone was converted into hair loss causing DHT. When beta-sitosterol was applied topically along with testosterone, testosterone’s hair loss causing effects were reversed.3
How Beta-Sitosterol Helps with Hair Loss
Beta-sitosterol may be able to help with hair loss by addressing the three most prominent causes of hair loss: inflammation, stress, and DHT.
While inflammation is a natural component of your immune response, studies show that hair loss may be caused by an inflammatory component based on scalp biopsies in women with androgenetic alopecia.4 The exact mechanisms involved are not well known, but initial research suggests that pro-inflammatory cytokines may inhibit the growth of new hair follicles.5
Beta-sitosterol is in a class of compounds called sterols. Sterols and steroids have inflammation reducing effects. In a pilot study, runners were given capsules containing beta-sitosterol or a placebo. Runners given the beta-sitosterol capsules showed fewer inflammatory markers, including neutrophilia, lymphophenia, and leukocytes, than those runners who took the placebo. The treatment group also showed significant reductions in cortisol (the primary stress hormone). However, this study presents a small sample size with just 9 participants taking the beta-sitosterol capsule and 8 participants taking the placebo.9
In a mouse study, researchers evaluated the anti-inflammatory effects of beta-sitosterol on the immune cells of mice. The researchers compared the reactions of immune cell bathed in pro-inflammatory lipopolysaccharide (LPS) with and without beta-sitosterol and found that when the cells were exposed to beta-sitosterol, they produced less pro-inflammatory chemokines and cytokines and produced more anti-inflammatory markets like IL-10.10
In another study, researchers found that beta-sitosterol fortified chow reduced gut inflammation in mice treated with the pro-inflammatory compound 2,4,6-trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS). Beta-sitosterol was found to inhibit the pro-inflammatory NF-κB pathway.11
In mouse studies, researchers found that psychoemotional stress actually alters hair follicle cycling by prematurely ending the active hair growth phase (anagen).6 The physiological implications of this still require further research, but stress may trigger the release of inflammatory cytokines, which may contribute to a shortened hair growth phase.7
In the previous study on the effects of beta-sitosterol on runners, researchers found that the group given beta-sitosterol showed reductions in the stress hormone cortisol and other common stress markers. This suggests that beta-sitosterol may help to reduce the effects of stress.9
Potential DHT Blocker
The hormone DHT is one of the primary causes of androgenetic alopecia. Testosterone is converted into DHT via the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, but DHT is more powerful than testosterone and attaches to the same receptors as testosterone but for longer periods of time. High levels of DHT may gradually shrink hair follicles, resulting in a shorter hair growth period and a longer hair rest phase.8
While more research is necessary, beta-sitosterol may theoretically act as an effective DHT blocker. DHT is a sterol that binds to androgen receptors, while beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol that may interact with those same androgen receptors. That said, studies on the effects of beta-sitosterol in the prostates of hamsters found that beta-sitosterol could effectively block prostate growth induced by androgens, but it did so by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase, not by binding to androgen receptor sites.12
Not many studies exist on the effect of beta-sitosterol on hair growth. However, the studies that do exist show a great deal of promise. The one study that demonstrated the potential positive impact of beta-sitosterol involved multiple ingredients. If you’re looking to use beta-sitosterol for hair growth, it would be best to use a supplement with a similar combination of ingredients, such as HairOmega® DHT Blocker.
Vitamins for Hair Growth