The drug finasteride, commonly known for treating hair loss and enlarged prostates, is now being studied for its potential benefits in reducing the risk of heart disease. Research conducted by a team from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Maryland has shown promising results in both male humans and mice, providing insights into the drug’s effects on health and cholesterol levels.

The study aimed to explore the relationship between finasteride and heart disease due to the drug’s mechanism of action, which involves blocking a protein that activates the hormone testosterone. Testosterone has been tentatively linked to atherosclerosis in the past, a condition characterized by fatty deposits in blood vessels that can lead to serious cardiovascular events such as strokes and heart attacks.

An analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey database revealed a connection between the use of finasteride and lower cholesterol levels in male adults aged 50 or older. According to food scientist Jaume Amengual, individuals taking finasteride showed an average of 30 points lower in cholesterol compared to those not taking the drug, indicating a potential protective effect on heart health.

In addition to human data, the researchers conducted experiments on mice genetically predisposed to atherosclerosis. The mice were divided into groups receiving various doses of finasteride and a control group, while all consumed a high-calorie diet for 12 weeks. Notably, mice on the highest dose of 1,000 milligrams per kilogram of food exhibited improvements in cholesterol levels, reduced lipids, and fewer inflammatory markers in the liver, despite the poor quality of their diet.

Although the dosage administered to the mice was higher in proportion to their size compared to the doses typically prescribed to humans, the consistent outcomes observed in both animal and human subjects are encouraging. The next phase of the research involves more extensive studies on diverse groups of individuals taking finasteride, including potential clinical trials to further explore its heart benefits.

Finasteride has also gained attention for its potential use in transgender individuals undergoing hormone therapy, as hormonal changes during gender transition can often lead to hair loss. Notably, transgender individuals are also at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, making the exploration of finasteride’s heart benefits particularly relevant in this population.

The findings of the study suggest that finasteride may hold promise in reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels and improving overall cardiovascular health. Further research is needed to fully understand the extent of these benefits and to determine the optimal dosages for different populations. The approval of finasteride for other medical conditions should facilitate the progression of future studies, ultimately contributing to better heart health outcomes for a broader range of individuals.

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