Pumpkin seeds are full of protein and low in carbohydrates. They contain essential fatty acids and dietary fiber and have a broad range of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients. With all of the nutrition they contain, what are some of the most commonly studied and reported health benefits of this powerful seed?
Pumpkin Seeds and Prostate Problems
The incidence of male prostate problems has been found to be considerably lower in countries where pumpkin seeds are often consumed, like Austria and Hungary. This is hardly surprising when you look into pumpkin seeds nutrition and the compounds they contain for protecting a man’s prostate gland.
Eating the seeds regularly may help reduce an enlarged prostate and relieve the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is a painful condition that leads to constriction of the urethra and difficulty urinating.
There are several health nutrients believed to be responsible for the way pumpkin seeds help reduce prostate problems. The first is a compound called delta-7-sterine. Delta-7-sterine competes with dihydrotestosterone (DHT) at the receptor sites in the prostate. DHT is strongly implicated in prostate cell proliferation, but when delta-7-sterine is present in the diet in large enough amounts, it seems to help minimize the harmful effects of DHT on the prostate.
Pumpkin seeds contain high levels of phytosterols, including the much studied beta-sitosterol. Beta-sitosterol has been shown to block the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. This can have many positive effects, but specifically for prostate problems, the less excess DHT in the body to act upon the prostate the better.
In a double-blind placebo-controlled study of treating benign prostatic hyperplasia with phytosterols, BPH symptoms were shown to be ‘significantly improved in the treatment group’ with no side effects noted.
The high zinc content may be another reason why pumpkin seeds are good for prostate problems. Zinc is important for proper hormone production, including testosterone. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is said to enhance our immune response. All of these are potentially beneficial for a man suffering from an enlarged prostate. Alongside eating pepitas, here are some other good ways to get more of it into your diet.
Pumpkin seeds also contain other protective factors to help prevent or treat prostate problems, such as good levels of antioxidant carotenoids like beta-carotene and essential fatty acids. All in all, there’s a lot of nutrition, particularly for men, packed into the little green seeds.
Pumpkin Seeds and Hair Loss
Excessive dihydrotestosterone can cause many problems for men, particularly later in life. The same DHT responsible for enlarging the prostate and causing benign prostatic hyperplasia, is also believed to contribute to hair loss and eventually male pattern baldness.
DHT causes hair loss in men by shortening the anagen (growth) phase of the hair follicle. This can lead to progressively finer and weaker hairs that eventually simply stop growing. However, the beta-sitosterol in pumpkin seeds has been shown to act as an inhibitor of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. It’s this enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone.
While we are supposed to have some DHT, most men would feel a lot better and have fewer health problems if there were a little less of this testosterone conversion to dihydrotestosterone happening in our bodies. Snacking on a handful of raw pumpkin seeds regularly may be a good way of lessening testosterone conversion to DHT and minimizing hair loss.
Delta-7-sterine is also believed to reduce the damaging effects excessive DHT by competing with it at receptor sites. This is hard to observe and confirm with something like hair follicles, but many people report a reduction in hair loss when they eat pumpkin seeds regularly.
In fact, some people go so far as to apply pumpkin seed oil directly to their scalp before bed. The idea is to allow the delta-7-sterine, beta-sitosterol, the EFAs and other beneficial nutrients in it to act directly on the hair follicles overnight. The idea’s there, but I’m not sure about the green scalp look. Personally, I think I’ll stick with snacking on the seeds and using pumpkin seed oil on salads and in other recipes to maintain healthy hair.
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