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Q:  Insightful site! I am a 30+ female and want to know what foods (if any) in ones diet stimulates the overproduction of testosterone. What effect does stress have on the "situation"?

A: Many women ask how diet and stress might be related to their hormonal hair and skin problems. It is common to be told that acne is due to poor diet or that alopecia is a result of stress. The evidence for this can be easily summed up: There is none! Studies done a long time ago showed that eating chocolate or greasy foods do not cause acne. As to stress, all women (and men) are under stress at one time or another but not all get alopecia.

I have never seen any study suggesting that diet can increase women's testosterone levels. Testosterone may go down with very extreme dieting -- anorexia nervosa -- but that amount of dieting can cause hair loss so is hardly a solution as well as being harmful to health. Stress increases the activity of the adrenal, which along with the ovary, is where testosterone is made in women's bodies. It is conceivable that stress might cause a very brief change in adrenal function but there is no reason to think that chronic stress will elevate testosterone.

Many women I see with alopecia or acne are told it is stress; some are told it is diet. I do not think this is helpful. Diet as a cause of hair loss only occurs in famine or with certain rare diseases. As to stress, being told it is causing hair loss only makes a women feel more stressed. Stress reduction such as meditation may be very beneficial but is unlikely to help hair.

As I emphasize elsewhere, these problems are mainly due to hormones and it is attention to hormones which is most likely to lead to help.

Hope this is helpful.


Geoffrey Redmond, MD

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