The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) estimates that more than 80 million men and women in America suffer from alopecia. Although the most common cause of hair loss is due to genetics, certain factors, such as hormones, environmental and lifestyle elements, as well as nutrition, can act as accelerators and stimulate hair loss at a faster pace.
Fortunately, a number of these causes are reversible and correctable. One such reversible cause is nutritional imbalance, which, for example, affects 30% of women before the age of 50.
How does nutrition impact hair loss?
Like almost all aspects of the body, diet plays a crucial role in the growth and health of human hair. As hair follicles have a high cellular turnover, they require a constant supply of nutrients to cope with this high metabolic rate. Since 90% of human scalp hair is in the anagen phase at any given moment, it requires adequate amounts of essential elements such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals to pursue healthy growth. Nutritional deficiencies, therefore, not only contribute to hair loss but also lead to structural abnormalities and pigment changes in hair strands. These include vitamins and additional essential nutrients along with regular calorie intake deficiencies..
Essential hair nutrients:
Essential nutrients and minerals frequently associated with hair loss are:
The role of iron deficiency in stimulating hair loss was proven with scientific researches as early as the 1930s. With the most well-renowned study conducted in 1960, that demonstrated the significance of iron supplements to tackle hair loss observed in iron-deficient, non-anemic women. In the early 21st century, this notion was further scientifically backed when serum ferritin levels were evaluated in healthy women with unremitting hair loss for more than six months. The results showed that more than 96% of participants had serum ferritin levels below the normal range.
The essential amino acid, L-lysine is also linked with compromising iron storage in the body and accelerating hair loss.
An excessive amount of Vitamin A is proven to contribute to hair loss. A study evaluated the changes caused by isotretinoin (a synthetic vitamin A analog), commonly used to manage acne vulgaris on hair cycle and growth. After observing the participants over a 3-7 month period, researchers reported a decrease in hair count, density, and percentage of hair in the anagen phase.
When taking into consideration the Vitamin B family it’s important to know that only riboflavin, biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 deficiencies have been associated with hair loss. However, contrary to popular belief, there is an insufficient amount of literature available to support the role of biotin supplements to manage the complaints of hair loss. Similarly, the recommendation about zinc, riboflavin, folic acid, or vitamin B12 supplementation and their positive impact on hair loss, also remains controversial.
Statistical data shows that vitamin C deficiencies causing scurvy are also related to noticeable skin hemorrhages and hair loss.
Vitamin D with its immunomodulatory role is frequently linked to autoimmune disorders such as Androgenetic Alopecia (AA) and Telogen Effluvium (TE). In fact, a recent publication correlated the serum vitamin D levels with the severity, pattern, and duration of androgenetic alopecia. The researchers found 96% of the patients to be vitamin D deficient (< 20 ng/mL), along with concluding that serum vitamin D levels negatively correlate with the severity of the disease.
Vitamin E has an established role in maintaining the oxidant/antioxidant balance and protecting the body against free-radical damage. It can therefore help support a healthy scalp and hair.
Similar to vitamin A, excessive intake of selenium also negatively impacts the hair growth cycle. In 2008, an outbreak of acute selenium toxicity was reported in 200 individuals after a liquid dietary supplement consumption. 72 % of the affected individuals reported a rapid loss of hair along with other complaints.
Do nutritional supplements help manage hair loss?
Dietary supplements can indeed halt the excessive hair loss and restore the hair to its former glory. However, it is essential to acknowledge that supplements are only significantly effective if nutrition is the ONLY cause behind the hair loss.
In fact, the reason most people do not achieve the desired effects when seeking hair regrowth, is because they fail to block all possible reasons behind their hair loss.
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