Hair loss is a prevalent problem that many people face, in particular men. In recent years research has turned its attention to the role nutrition may play in hair loss and growth.
We do know that vitamins and minerals are essential for the functioning of cells and their growth and that specific vitamin and mineral deficiencies may present problems for hair growth.
Many people turn to supplementation as it’s relatively cheap and offers a convenient way of treating hair loss, but further research into the role vitamins and minerals play is needed.
The growing number of people looking for nutritional supplementation to prevent or mitigate hair loss has risen rapidly in recent years.
The answer to whether or not nutrition plays a role in hair loss and, if so, to what degree, is challenging at best. This is due to the immense amount of contradictory evidence on the subject. (1)
Greens Nutrition And Hair Health
Think of this; the average human head has more than 10,000 hair follicles. 90% of these, however, are in the “anagen phase.” This stage is critical as it requires essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and proteins to generate hair efficiently.
Because of this, micronutrients like vitamins and trace minerals are essential elements in our everyday diet.
Stewart and Gutherie reported that in 1497, Vasco de Gamma documented all 160 of his sailors’ deaths. Significantly they were able to link more than 100 deaths to scurvy, which is a vitamin C deficiency disease; they also noted dramatic hair loss in the 100 sailors who died.
Skin and hair changes are also noticeable in protein-energy malnutrition, commonly seen in children with kwashiorkor conditions. Researchers also know that a sudden drastic drop in carbohydrate intake also results in hair loss.
These are important factors to take into consideration when making changes to your current diet.
Managing and understanding hair growth and loss has become an imperative feature in clinical dermatology as it can have significant impacts on patients’ mental well-being and quality of life.
Essential Nutrients For Hair Health
There are numerous reasons to speculate about what role nutrition, particularly micronutrients, plays in hair loss. (2) The most exceptional or noteworthy of these is that micronutrients are significant factors for producing healthy hair growth.
They help divide the hair bulb and provide a rapid turnover of the all-important “matrix” cells responsible for hair growth.
The role of nourishment and food in managing hair loss signifies a progressive and expanding area of inquiry.
As we all know, spinach is an exceptionally potent nutritional leafy green that offers several benefits, including supporting healthy hair. Contained within spinach are essential nutrients like vitamin A and C, and iron; these nutrients have been shown to support hair growth and mitigate or slow down hair loss.
The skin generates sebum, and vitamin A plays an integral part in this process. Sebum is an oily material that supports scalp health by providing adequate amounts of moisture.
Spinach is an excellent source of iron, which is imperative in the process of hair growth and maintaining hair health. Red blood cells’ primary function is to carry oxygen within the body, and iron plays an integral part.
A diet deficient in iron has been associated with hair loss, and unfortunately, iron deficiency is the most prevalent worldwide.
Beans are an excellent choice for health-conscious people looking for sufficient amounts of plant protein; protein is critical for healthy hair. Like oysters, legumes are a rich source of zinc, and adequate zinc levels may help hair growth and maintenance.
Just 100grams of beans can provide you with nearly 10% of your daily requirements.
Beans also contain other essential nutrients that could help support hair growth and slow down hair loss, such as iron and folate. Greens like beans are very affordable and can be prepared in a variety of different ways.
Vitamin A is essential for cell growth and hair growth, and considering that hair is the most rapidly growing network in the body, vitamin A is a must.
As mentioned earlier, vitamin A helps support sebum production, an oily substance that keeps the scalp from drying out. There is evidence to suggest that people with vitamin A deficiencies in their diet can suffer from significant amounts of hair loss. (3)
Kale and sweet potatoes are also excellent choices as they contain beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. Other good sources are high-quality greens supplements, animal products, and dairy products such as milk, eggs, and yogurt.
B- vitamin plays many vital roles within the body. One specific B-vitamin called “biotin” is crucial for hair growth and health.
Biotin is commonly used in hair loss supplements and has been shown to support hair growth, particularly in those people who are deficient in B-vitamins. B-vitamin deficiency is unusual, however, as the vitamin can be found in a variety of different nutritional sources.
As with much of the research on hair growth and nutrition, there is a lot of contradictory evidence, so it’s best to research your supplements and food choices before purchasing. (4)
Some of the secondary B-vitamins help the body to produce red blood cells. This is important as red blood cells transport oxygen and essential nutrients to the scalp and hair follicles.
B-vitamin is contained in several foods but is particularly plentiful in dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach. Supplementing with a greens powder in either a juice, smoothie, or meal replacement form is another excellent option.
B-12 vitamins are only found in quality animal sources, so if you follow a vegan diet, this is something to consider, and supplementation for B-12 is highly recommended.
The damage that free radicals can cause to hair growth can be devastating as they can make the hair look aged and unhealthy. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can help prevent or alleviate the adverse effects caused by free radicals.
One of the most critical roles vitamin C plays among many is helping the body to create collagen. Collage is a powerful protein that supports skin and hair health and is vital in new hair growth.
Vitamin C is also an excellent absorber of iron, an essential mineral for hair growth production.
Various greens and fruits make great choices for high-quality vitamin C and they taste great too.
Insufficient vitamin D levels have been directly linked to “alopecia,” the scientific term for hair loss.
Studies have also revealed the critical role vitamin D plays in generating new hair follicles; follicles are the microscopic pores on the human head where new hair grows.
Again here, it’s important to point out that many of the studies have varying results and as such continued research is needed. However, with that aside, the vast majority of people are woefully deficient in Vitamin D levels, so supplementing is highly recommended.
Sunlight helps the body produce vitamin D through direct contact with the sun; other vitamin A sources are fatty fish, leafy greens, and some mushrooms.
As we’ve seen, many people who suffer from hair loss look towards supplementation to help repair hair or inhibit additional loss. Unfortunately, many people don’t do their due diligence and research the effectiveness of such supplements.
The hair supplement industry, which to a degree is mostly unregulated, sadly takes advantage of the population and cashes in.
The links and conclusions vary significantly from study to study, with most of the evidence being contradictory at best. We know that the hair follicles are the fastest network in the body and that calorie and protein malnutrition do play a role in hair health.
Deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals may also influence hair growth and health; because of this well-established link, many people inquiring about hair loss treatment ask questions concerning dietary advice.
By the age of 50, nearly 50% of males will be affected by some kind of hair loss pattern.
Consumers must beware as there are multiple nutritional supplements on the market sold as “hair loss treatments.” On Amazon alone, over 900 products contain the keyword “hair loss.”
Many of these supplements comprise various ingredients, and many make outlandish claims, without the necessary third-party-testing-or Made in the USA labeling.