Hair loss and prostate medication could also reduce heart disease risk, study finds

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A drug that has long been used to treat two common men’s health conditions could have some unexpected benefits.

Finasteride — more commonly known as Propecia or Proscar — has treated male pattern baldness and enlarged prostate in millions of men.

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have also linked the “miracle drug” to cholesterol-lowering effects and reduced heart disease risk.

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The findings, published in the Journal of Lipid Research, showed lower cholesterol levels among men who took the drug — on average, 30 points less than men who were not on the medication.

The data was initially collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2009 and 2016. 

A drug that has long been used to treat two common men’s health conditions could have some unexpected benefits. (iStock)

Then, in a study of mice, use of the drug for 12 weeks — along with a high-fat, high-cholesterol “Western” diet — was linked to reduced cholesterol, slower buildup of plaque in the arteries, and reduced liver inflammation, among other benefits. 

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“The most surprising finding was the human data,” lead study author Jaume Amengual, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois, told Fox News Digital. 

“When we observed the association with finasteride and plasma lipids, we decided to do our mouse study.”

Drug’s benefits and side effects

As a hair loss treatment, finasteride works by blocking a protein found in hair follicles — and as an enlarged prostate treatment, the drug blocks the prostate gland that activates testosterone.

Atherosclerosis, which occurs when cholesterol plaques build up in the arteries and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, is most prevalent among men.

male hair loss

As a hair loss treatment, Finasteride works by blocking a protein found in hair follicles. (iStock)

Some experts have linked the male hormone testosterone to the heart condition.

The potential hormonal effect prompted the researchers to explore whether the medication could also reduce heart disease risk, Amengual said.

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Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, was not involved in the study but commented on the implications of finasteride.

“It stops testosterone from turning into dihydrotestosterone and thereby stops hair loss and also shrinks the prostate by 25%,” he said.

Side effects can include depression, anxiety and impotence, the doctor added.

man heart

In response to the drug being found to lower cholesterol and decrease heart disease risk, a doctor called for more research to confirm the findings. (iStock)

Dr. Brett Osborn, a Florida neurologist and longevity expert who was also not involved in the study, offered his insights on the uses and risks associated with the drug.

“Finasteride in normal dosages – 1 to 5 mg daily, depending upon the indication – has intolerable side effects in many,” he said.

“Finasteride in normal dosages has intolerable side effects in many.”

The drug works by lowering levels of DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in order to have the desired effect on the prostate gland and hair follicles, he said, “but it can also strip a man of his energy, virility, libido and motivation.”

Study limitations and next steps

The study did have some limitations, the researchers noted.

Out of nearly 4,800 total participants, only 155 were finasteride users, all of whom were men over 50. The survey also did not determine the duration or amount of the doses.

prostate model

as an enlarged prostate treatment, finasteride blocks the prostate gland that activates testosterone. (iStock)

“We also did not examine the effects of finasteride in women or female mice,” Amengual said. 

“However, this drug is not prescribed for women, as it could be dangerous during pregnancy.”

“This drug could be another tool in the fight against cardiovascular diseases.”

The next step is to track cholesterol levels of patients taking finasteride or to launch a clinical trial to confirm the link.

“There is still so much to discover on how finasteride works in our body,” Amengual noted. “But based on our findings, this drug could be another tool in the fight against cardiovascular diseases.”

testosterone

The drug works by lowering levels of DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in order to have the desired effect on the prostate gland and hair follicles, which can cause side effects in some men, a doctor noted. (iStock)

In response to the drug being found to lower cholesterol and decrease heart disease risk, Siegel also called for more research.

“Much larger studies are needed in humans to confirm these findings before you would ever consider using this drug for cardioprevention,” he said.

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“It may end up being useful for this purpose in the elderly, who are at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, as an add-on statin therapy.”

In addition to the study’s small size, Osborn noted that it was performed retrospectively — “meaning there was no control group(s), and that random effects, unbeknownst to the researchers, may have swayed the results in one direction,” he told Fox News Digital. 

siegel osborn doctor split

Dr. Marc Siegel (left) and Dr. Brett Osborn (right) both shared insights on finasteride’s uses and side effects. (Dr. Marc Siegel/Dr. Brett Osborn)

“That said, the authors’ observations are interesting and demand further investigation,” Osborn went on. 

“After all, lipid-lowering agents are one of the mainstays of cardiovascular risk reduction — and most Americans die vascular deaths.”

This study doesn’t mean that every male should start taking finasteride, Osborn cautioned.

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Instead, he recommends getting regular exercise, increasing daily fiber intake to 25 grams and taking high doses of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce cardiovascular risk.

“For now, skip the finasteride as a lipid-lowering agent,” he advised. “As it stands now, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.”

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.



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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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