in hair loss
Hair fall, after the individual strands have completed their
life cycle, is quite normal and nothing unhealthy; but of course,
hair falling off reasoning large amounts, or a failure of hair
follicles to regrow new hair after the old hair has fallen out,
is a sign of ill health. Scientists and clinicians have been long
attempting to identify the root causes leading to abnormal and
uncontrolled hair shedding with a view to lessening the agony
of the hair loss. Many past and ongoing research studies have
laid bare the connection between hair loss in human beings (as
loss of the coat in animals) and nutritional factors.
Initial experiments to establish links between nutritional factors
and hair loss conducted on animals proved the vital role of nutrients.
Deficiency of any of the nutrients like iron or riboflavin or
zinc was shown to mar the quality and look of the animal coat.
Studies about the role of nutrients on human skin and hair changes
are usually based on the observation of the responses to protein-energy
malnutrition and eating disorders in people receiving deficient
diets either through a lack of quality food or through misguided
Protein malnutrition conditions like Kwashiorkor and Marasmus
(in children) are also accompanied by degraded skin and hair quality.
These findings, however, took a long time to be confirmed.
In human beings’ hair, losses due to nutritional factors
are essentially of two types:
Skin scaling maladies resulting in hair loss
Follicular problems resulting in hair loss
Nutritional Factors Initiating Scalp Scaling And Hair Loss
Not all chronic scaling conditions of the scalp such as dandruff
or seborrhoieic dermatitis that trigger hair shedding (telogen
effluvium) and lead to noticeable thinning in hair density are
related to nutritional deficiency. Yet many scientific findings
associate scalp skin abrasions, chaffing and itching in the accompaniment
of hair loss with nutritional imbalances.
Thus, deficiency of biotin is known to set off dermatitis, which,
in turn, initiates the process of continual hair loss. Though
the dermatologists have yet to establish the fact that biotin
deficiency is a direct consequence of the intake of an imbalanced
diet, regular doses of 1.0-2.0 mg of biotin (for say 2/3 months)
is believed to prove effective in unresponsive scalp scaling problems.
Essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency plays an important role
in dermatitis and uncontrolled hair fall. EFA imbalance is usually
of dietary origin and is more common among those who consume low
fish oil and red meat. The two important groups among EFAs are;
Omega-6 EFAs - derived from linoleic acid present in red meat
- Omega-3 EFAs - derived from alphalinolenic acid
present in oily fish and marine animals
EFA deficiency countered by the intake of EFA supplements is
known to produce almost miraculous effects on scalp flaking and
Nutritional Factors Damaging Hair Follicles And Causing Hair
Scalp hair loss without any associated scalp scaling is of follicular
origin. What happens in such cases is that nutritional imbalances
weaken the hair follicles and this prompts acute hair shedding
(telogen effluvium) or chronic telogen effluvium. Chronic telogen
effluvium or CTE may stem from a variety of causes – from
iron deficiency to zinc deficiency to deficiency of essential
amino acids, etc. Studies have proved that excessive supplement
intake may at times boomerang and prompt hair fall.
Unlike other nutritional factors, the role of Essential Amino
Acids in hair growth and hair fall is quite complicated. In general,
the supplies of Essential Amino Acids in the body are quite high
for most people. However, this is not always the case with L-lysine.
L-lysine is obtainable from foods of animal origin. Naturally,
an imbalance between intake and utilization of L-lysine results
in people avoiding these foods - namely vegans. The human system
makes up for this shortage by drawing from the muscle reserves
of L-lysine; however, the body does this for the more essential
body functions and tissues rather than waste them on trifling
matters such as hair growth, etc.
In defining the role of L-lysine, scientists have determined
that this essential amino acid plays a vital role in the absorption
of Iron and Zinc. This discovery is considered a revolutionary
breakthrough in planning the remedies for abnormal hair loss.
Doses of L-lysine (1.5 – 2.0 g/day) are believed to be of
significant help to hair loss affected individuals with low serum
ferritin concentration. However, the point to be noted in this
regard is that the L-lysine supplement plus iron and zinc supplements
are required together to contain the hair shedding problem. Individually,
they have less effect on hair loss.
Truths About The So-called ‘Remedies’ for Hair Loss
Many a commercial enterprise tries to cash in on the emotional
aspect associated with hair loss. The market is now full of consultants
who promise people that their ‘drugs and therapies’ can
stop hair fall and give back their youthful look. Two common remedial
measures often considered by people are:
- Multivitamin Supplements
- Anti-androgen therapy
The after-effects of following a vitamin regimen or an anti-androgen
therapy session is not always similar to what the consultants
claim. In fact, in many cases adverse effects are also experienced.
Many women take to multivitamin supplements to improve their
chronic telogen effluvium condition. However, an important finding
in this field is the recognition that excessive supplement intake,
particularly the intake of vitamin A, other fat-soluble vitamins
and trace elements, can actually cause hair loss. Adverse effects
have also been registered with high intakes of some water-soluble
vitamins although the chances of side effects are overall less
than with fat soluble vitamins.
Multivitamin supplements, even those specifically promoted for
combating hair loss as found in many health food stores, can prove
harmful for hair. In fact, multivitamin formulations and preparations
often have high concentrations of folic acid (usually much higher
than the quantity the body needs). This leads to elevated red
cell folic acid concentrations, something that can prove detrimental
for the healthy growth of hair.
Many times the multivitamin compositions are so erroneous that
complications arise from the interaction between the different
elements in the supplement pills. A case in point is the interaction
between iron and zinc. The human body system requires the iron
to zinc intake ratio to be 3:1, in order for uninterrupted absorption
or iron. However, the over-the-counter multivitamin preparations
rarely meet these parameters.
Hair Treatment (Anti-androgen Therapy)
Anti-androgen therapy is especially meant for women. Anti-androgen
therapy for men is not appropriate as men require a certain level
of androgen hormones in their body to maintain muscle mass, libdo,
etc. Women with difuse androgenetic alopecia type hair loss are
often treated with a combination of the oral anti-androgen, Cyproterone
Acetate (CPA) and Ethinyl Oestradiol (EE2 - estrogen). At times,
a combination of CPA and Dianette is also used.
Research studies have shown that CPA effects a marked decrease
in blood serum B12 concentrations. Though no direct links between
hair loss and lowered serum B12 concentrations have been established,
its role in cell health suggests it could play a key role in hair
growth. The administration of CPA/ EE2 medication is also known
to induce a state of anxiousness and depression; however, no negative
side effects on the health of hair have been noticed.
It may thus be inferred that multivitamin supplements and anti-androgen
therapy for hair loss in their current forms are far from perfect.
The role of nutritional factors in hair loss is yet to be fully
explored. Nevertheless, it has dawned on human kind that external
care-regimen apart, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and
vitamins play a pronounced role for the maintenance of hair quality
and hair growth. Dietary imbalance – whether it is deficiency
or excess – disturbs the system equilibrium even in otherwise
healthy individuals, which can only be rectified by way of balanced
in hair loss references
- Rushton DH.
Nutritional factors and hair loss.
Clin Exp Dermatol. 2002 Jul;27(5):396-404.