We investigate the widespread rumor that Japan’s beloved sweet and savory soy bean powder kinako actually has the ability to restore hair.

■ Ki-nockin’ on hair-growth’s door

▼ “I drank it in non-adjusted soy milk for two weeks and my hairline has revived with amazing speed!”

These are some of the testimonies of people who claimed to have had their male-pattern baldness slowed, halted, or reversed by eating kinako: a flour made from roasted and peeled soy beans. Kinako is a really nice little seasoning that interestingly tastes both sweet and savory and can even make raw daikon taste good.

▼ “I began eating kinako every day for two weeks. I can feel the power of my hair coming back. Kinako is cheap for balding.”


But the notion that it can actually grow hair seems a little far-fetched. I mean, if it could truly do what some people claim, it would surely be instantly marketed as such and raking in the yen. Then again, Japanese men by and large seem able to hang onto a full head of hair well into their twilight years. Could it be a result of some untapped force in kinako?

▼ “I put kinako, milk, and black honey into a shaker and drink three times a day. My hair loss has decreased.”

Hair professionals interviewed by Japanese website Netallica seem to concur. Dietitian Takako Nakagawa told them that “kinako contains many vitamins and minerals – zinc in particular – which are essential to hair growth.” They also asked hair consultant Eiko Matsumoto who said that kinako isoflavones “act in a similar way to estrogen, which reduces dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and its androgenic hormones that cause male pattern baldness.

■ Put to the test

I have to admit, a lot of that went over my C-plus-in-biology head, and a quick Wikipedia scan reveals that Nakagawa and Matsumoto’s claims haven’t been scientifically proven. Still, I choose to believe them because…What else have I got?

So, I decided to donate my scalp to science and undertake a kinako diet in the hopes that it rejuvenates my thinning hair. Luckily, I’m a pretty good candidate fairly early into the hair-loss game and not yet past the point of no return.

■ Oolong tea too!

However, just before getting started I came across another bit of news. Hair growth product manufacturer Reve21 announced they are conducting research on oolong tea because it inhibits 5α-reductase, which is said to cause thinning hair.

So it was settled. Every day I was to have a nice glass of oolong tea and a tablespoon of kinako as recommended by Nakagawa. The kinako was mixed in with milk to make it easier to swallow. They recommend using warm milk for smoother mixing, but since I’m not Princess Perrywinkle of Pixieland I would make do with the lumpy cold mix.

Thankfully, both the tea and kinako milk were pretty good tasting. The kinako milk was reminiscent of chocolate milk but with a hint of nuttiness. Also, perhaps I was just imagining things, but I swore I could feel my scalp tingle after drinking them the first few times.

■ One month later…

For an accurate comparison, I got a haircut both before and after the kinako/oolong diet. This also gave me a chance to consult my loyal barber at the discount hair-cutter for an expert opinion. I’ve been going to him ever since he gave me free eggs from the supermarket the hair salon was annexed to.

Surely, no one would have a more intimate knowledge of my hair than he, so I asked:

Me: “Say, do you notice anything different since last time I got a haircut?”

Barber: “Like what?”

Me: “I dunno…like the color… Is there more or less? Anything?”

Barber: “No, it’s the same. You’re the same guy right?”

Me: “Yeah, I guess so…”

Barber: “We don’t have any eggs today.”

Me: “I see.”

And so concluded my experiment as well as my relationship with that particular discount hair place.

■ Results

Without further ado, here are the before and after images of my hairline.

Going by these photos, it certainly appears that kinako and oolong tea did a big load of nothing with regards to hair growth. Granted, I only did it for one month and the possibility remains that longer use would show some effects, but some online testimonials said that it took only two weeks before improvements appeared.

Still, as far as hair treatments go, it’s rather enjoyable, cheap, and probably healthy in other regards. So, if you’re really desperate and willing to try anything, it probably wouldn’t hurt to give it a go. Otherwise, you can just wait the two years for Shiseido’s stem cell treatment to go on the market.

Source: Netallica, Kyodo News (Japanese)
Photos: RocketNews24
Adrian Vandenberg Photo: Wikipedia/Cathy Griffiths