Men's Health

A New "Hair Loss" Enzyme for Men

Q: A friend sent me an article on the discovery of an enzyme that’s supposed to cause baldness in men. The article said that they are working on a medicine that will block the enzyme, but there were other natural things that could block it too. It’s supposed to be a miracle for male pattern baldness. I wondered if you’d heard of it and knew of anything that could block the enzyme and help with hair loss.

A: Several years ago, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania published a paper on the discovery of a new enzyme, called PGD2 that prevents hair follicles from maturing. It was found that balding men had much higher levels of this enzyme, which inhibits hair growth. A prescription blocker of the PGD2 enzyme is said to be in the works, but it is many years from being released.

There are some natural products which have been researched to block the same “hair loss” enzyme; quercetin, a compound found in citrus fruits, and resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine. Both have been found in research to be able to suppress the PGD2 enzyme which is linked to male hair loss. 

The research is very preliminary, however, and even though studies have found quercetin and resveratrol to be effective in inhibiting the PGD2 enzyme, it does not necessarily mean they will help prevent or reverse hair loss. Both supplements are safe and beneficial to take, however, and some men may decide to begin taking the supplements to see if they make a difference. Quercetin also has benefits for allergies and the immune system, and resveratrol is well know as a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory anti-aging properties.

So, yes, there are natural products that can block the “hair loss” enzyme, but I would be hesitant to call them a “miracle cure”. Still, there’s no harm in trying it, since they are supplements which have additional benefits for anyone.

Men's Sexual Health

Since we wrote about women’s sexual health this month, I wanted to mention that we do have products for men’s sexual health as well. It’s estimated that over 30 million American men suffer from low sex drive and/or erectile dysfunction. In many cases it can be a side effect of health issues like high blood pressure or can even be caused by a number of common medications. 

The first thing I would recommend is maca root. It’s available in capsules or powder (the powder is a great addition to a morning smoothie or protein shake) and has been used for thousands of years for virility and male potency; recent research has confirmed that it can help with increasing sperm count and help to reverse sexual dysfunction.

Another supplement we’d recommend is Steel Libido for Men by Irwin Naturals. We wrote about the women’s formula for sexual health, but the men’s formula definitely deserves a mention as well. It has a variety of well-researched ingredients that work in several different ways to restore sexual function, including several supplements which help with increasing blood flow, which directly impacts erectile functioning. Just like the women’s formula, it can be either be taken on a daily basis or only used occasionally as needed before sexual activity.

All of our Steel Libido formulas for men and women are on sale during the month of February for 25% off.


See our article here for information on Women's Sexual Health.


Ashwaganda for stress, boosting testosterone, fertility, brain function, and more

Ashwaganda is an amazing herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It’s recently been gaining attention in the United States as a result of numerous very positive scientific studies. It’s wonderful when herbs that have been used for thousands of years are then confirmed by science!  I’ve been collecting research studies on ashwaganda for some time now, so I’ll briefly post some of the findings below.


Ashwaganda for boosting testosterone and fertility

One study found that ashwaganda root extract increased testosterone and improved sperm counts in a group of men who had fertility problems. The men took ashwaganda supplements for 90 days and the results documented that their testosterone levels rose by seventeen percent and their sperm counts more than doubled.


Ashwaganda for strength and muscle growth

Healthy men who took ashwaganda supplements during a strength and weight training program had significant gains in strength when compared to those taking a placebo. The study gave 300mg of ashwaganda extract to men twice a day for eight weeks. At the end of the eight weeks, the participants who received ashwaganda showed significant increases in muscle mass in the arms and chest. In addition, the ashwaganda group has larger gains in their ability to do bench press and leg extension exercises, with less muscle damage. The men who took ashwaganda also had improved testosterone levels as well as a reduction in body fat.


Ashwaganda and cognitive function

Ashwaganda extract was found to be effective in boosting cognition in people with bipolar disorder. An eight week study gave participants 500mg of ashwaganda extract to participants (or a placebo) in addition to their regular medications. Significant improvements in auditory-verbal working memory, reaction time, and social cognition were seen in the ashwaganda group. Ashwaganda has also been shown to have positive effects on stress and sleep issues.


Ashwaganda and stress

In one study, ashwaganda extract was shown to be able to reduce the physical effects of mental stress. Researchers gave young, healthy men 1,000mg of ashwaganda extract daily. After two weeks, the participants were given tests to measure stress. Blood pressure readings and other measurements of stress-induced compounds were significantly lower in the ashwaganda group compared to the group of men who received the placebo.

Another placebo controlled study on ashwaganda and stress gave participants 300mg of ashwaganda extract twice daily. After two months, the ashwaganda group had significant reductions of stress on a variety of stress assessments. Cortisol levels (a stress hormone) were also greatly reduced.


Ashwaganda for neurodegenerative diseases

Ashwaganda has shown benefit for numerous neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Ashwaganda has been shown to slow (and may even stop or reverse) atrophy of the nerves and synaptic loss as well as having protective effects against further damage.


Ashwaganda- which type is best?

We recommend Jarrow Formula’s Ashwaganda because it uses a one of a kind extract known as KSM-66. This specialized ashwaganda extract is the highest concentration available and has been shown specifically to be more effective than standard ashwaganda extracts. The strength of the beneficial properties in ashwaganda can vary widely, which why it’s important to choose a branded extract like the one in Jarrow’s formula, so you know you’re taking the most effective product available, as well as one that is backed by scientific research.


Healthy Q & A: Saw Palmetto for Prostate Health

Q:  I’ve been diagnosed with an enlarged prostate.  My doctor has offered me medication for my symptoms, but I thought I might want to try something natural first to see if it would help. Would you recommend anything?

A:  You’re certainly not alone.  Over 50% of men in their 60’s have an enlarged prostate, and that number increases to 90% with men in their 70’s.  Prostate enlargement, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, is the most common prostate problem for men over 50. There are prescription medications which can help with symptoms, but there are also natural products which work very well for managing BPH without the side effects that often come with pharmaceuticals.

The prostate is a walnut sized gland that encircles the urethra.  Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include difficulty or pain during urination as well as frequent urination and incontinence.  This happens because as the prostate grows, it can squeeze the urethra and cause pain.  Natural products can be very effective in treating symptoms, although it is still important to get regular checkups from a physician.

When it comes to prostate health, the natural product superstar is saw palmetto.  This herb works to help reduce the swelling of the prostate, allowing for easier urine flow, and also helps to strengthen the neck of the bladder.  A British study found that 320 milligrams of saw palmetto per day was four times more effective than a placebo in improving the emptying of the bladder.  In addition, the men didn’t have as much difficulty and pain in urinating as they had before taking the herb.  A recent Swiss study found that men with varying degrees of prostate enlargement found relief after taking saw palmetto, with a 42% improvement in the mild BPH group, 38% in the medium group, and a 30% improvement in those with the most severe prostate enlargement.  

Saw palmetto is so effective that 90 percent of men in Germany with prostate enlargement take it daily for reducing symptoms.  The herb is best taken in capsule form, since handling saw palmetto in tablet form can be harmful to pregnant women.

Many men avoid having a prostate exam.  In fact, a UK survey determined that six out of ten men would wait to see if a problem went away before going to the doctor, and one out of ten would wait until symptoms became unbearable before seeing a doctor.  Some men said they would refuse to seek help no matter what.  These are alarming statistics, because a prostate exam is important to determine if one is experiencing common benign prostate enlargement or a more serious problem like prostate cancer.

The nutrient lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, is probably the most effective supplement in preventing prostate cancer.  A Harvard study of over 40,000 men found that those who ate ten servings of tomato based foods daily had a 35% reduction in prostate cancer.  Ten servings of tomatoes can be a difficult thing to eat in a day, so it’s nice that lycopene is available in capsule form.  In another study, researchers found that increased levels of lycopene in the blood reduced the risk of developing prostate cancer, especially aggressive forms of the disease which are harder to treat.  The study determined that taking 50 mg of a lycopene supplement was able to significantly increase the amount of lycopene in the blood, and thereby reduce prostate cancer risk.

Some other recommendations would be to make sure to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, since dehydration stresses the prostate gland.  Many men reduce their fluid intake when they are dealing with urinary problems, but doing so can cause more harm to the prostate. Adding pumpkin seeds to the diet can also help with restoring normal flow of urine. Unsweetened cranberry juice can also be beneficial, since it helps to prevent urinary tract infections which are common in men with an enlarged prostate.


Healthy Q & A: Exercise and Protein Shakes, with Recommendations


Q:  I’ve started working out, and I want to start taking a protein shake, but am kind of overwhelmed with the choices.  Do you think a protein shake is necessary?  What would you recommend?  I want something that is good tasting too.

A:  Good job starting an exercise program!  Protein is great for muscle recovery, enhancing muscle rebuilding and growth.  Drinking a protein shake within 45 minutes of exercising has been shown to aid in promoting muscle growth in studies.

Depending on what type of exercise you’re doing, a protein shake may not be necessary. Light exercise like walking or yoga usually does not require additional protein added to the diet (though everyone should be getting at the very minimum the RDA of protein, which is 46 grams for women and 56 grams of protein for men).  Weight training or more intense exercise, which people of all ages should be doing, would benefit from additional protein.  Strength training helps to increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis as well as reducing arthritis pain improving insulin resistance, and reducing blood pressure. Building muscle also helps to boost your metabolism which increases the rate in which you burn calories.  A natural part of aging is reduced muscle mass, so incorporating some strength training into your daily routine literally can “turn back the clock”.

One thing to think of when adding a recovery protein shake is the amount of calories consumed.  Pretty much every protein shake tastes better when made with milk or soy milk, but in most instances protein powder mixed with water is preferable due to its lower calorie count.  When trying to get in shape or lose weight, it’s important not to sabotage your weight loss efforts by drinking all the calories you burned post workout.

Whey protein, which is derived from milk, is often said to be the best form of protein for building muscles since it is so easily absorbed.  I don’t eat dairy, so I asked Patrick who works at the store, and he recommended Isopure as his favorite protein shake, due to its taste and protein and amino acid content.  After Isopure, Patrick and his family agreed that our Biochem chocolate whey protein powder was the next best tasting.

For non dairy protein, after trying a number of other protein shakes, the one I’ve stuck with is NOW Food’s unflavored pea protein powder.  It is economical and has a high protein content per serving, particularly for a non dairy protein shake (non dairy protein powders are typically lower in protein than their whey protein counterparts).  I like it because it has a similar amino acid profile to whey protein and is a clean shake without excess ingredients.  Unlike some other protein powders, it isn’t gritty, which makes it easy to drink.  I do also like Nature’s Plus Spirutien shakes, which are a mix of rice, pea, and soy protein.   They’re especially nice since they come in so many different flavors.  They aren’t as high in protein per serving as some other shakes, but they do have added vitamins, minerals, and superfoods like spirulina.

Research has shown that roughly 20-25 grams of protein post workout is optimal, so look at the nutrition facts for the protein powder you’re using to find how much you need to take.

Supplement Spotlight: Testosterone Boosting Supplements

Our focus this month is on testosterone boosting supplements. 

Testosterone is the main male sex hormone, which regulates a number of functions including sex drive, fat distribution, muscle size and strength, bone mass, and more.  Once a man hits 30, his testosterone levels begin to decline every year, dropping more significantly in the forties and beyond.  By age 60 a man may have only 1/3 (or less) of the amount of testosterone they did as a teenager.

Symptoms of low testosterone levels are low energy, depressed mood, anxiety, poor sleep, weight gain (particularly around the abdomen), reduced sex drive, diminished erections, among others. 

The best testosterone boosting supplement we’ve found is Ultra T Male by Nature’s Plus.  It helps to raise testosterone levels naturally by balancing the body’s hormone levels, which means that it will help to raise low testosterone levels, but will not raise levels excessively for someone who’s in normal hormonal range.  Because of this, there is no worry of having too much testosterone like synthetic hormone boosters.

Ultra T Male has a variety of different supplements which have been found to aid in hormone regulation, boosting testosterone and sexual health.  Read more about the ingredients in Ultra T Male here.


Supplement Spotlight: Saw Palmetto and Prostate Health

Benign prostate enlargement, or BPH occurs is nearly all men as they age.  It is not harmful, but it can cause side effects, the most common of which are problems urinating.   It often begins in a man’s 30’s, though symptoms are not often seen until age 50.  Common symptoms are trouble urinating as well as feeling the need to urinate frequently.

The most common and effective supplement for benign prostate enlargement is the herb, saw palmetto.  It has been shown in research to both strengthen the bladder and reduce prostate enlargement.  In one study, found that supplementation for one month with saw palmetto significantly increased urine flow when compared to a placebo.  Another study found that 320 mg per day (the recommended dose) was five times more effective in helping to improve emptying of the bladder over placebo.  It was also found that men had less difficulty and pain while urinating than before they had taken saw palmetto.  The men also reported getting up fewer times in the night to go to the bathroom.  Interestingly, saw palmetto has been reported to work much quicker than its pharmaceutical equivalents.

Finally, it’s important to note that while benign prostate enlargement is usually a natural part of aging for most men, it’s still crucial to have regular prostate checks from a physician to rule out other problems.  The symptoms of benign prostate enlargement are the same as a number of more serious conditions, including prostate cancer.  Many men avoid getting prostate screenings, but prostate cancer, which is estimated to affect one in six men in their lifetime, is nearly 100% curable when caught in the beginning stages.