Hair Nutrition A Nanogen Briefing for the Scientific Community by Toby Cobbledick Abstract Nutrition is a complex subject as the effects of correct nutrition are indirect and slow to appear. This is particularly true for hair which is slow to respond to any form of treatment. Correct nutrition has been shown by many trials to be essential for healthy hair growth, and conversely many deficiencies correlate with hair loss. Hair nutrition is therefore a vital part of any treatment regime. A truly systematic and rigorous approach must be taken when formulating a nutritional supplement for hair due the many factors that affect the eventual efficacy of the treatment. Several of these factors are discussed with applicable examples to demonstrate the importance of careful formulation. Introduction
additional consideration is the selective inhibition of the two
isoforms of 5α reductase. It has been shown in limited in vitro
The fact that hair growth requires complex nutrients and a ready
tests that both isoforms may be inhibited by lipid-rich saw
supply of oxygen is well documented, but often overlooked.
palmetto extracts, however there has been no study finding a
Perhaps because the effects are indirect and difficult to measure,
measurable effect on both isoforms from the whole fruit form. Of
comparatively few studies have trialled ingredients and
course the whole fruit contains all of the components of the
combinations of ingredients to maintain or promote hair growth.
extract and so theoretically would have the same effect, however
It is not surprising then that many respectable manufacturers of
nutritional supplements do not consider the importance of bioavailability, balancing elements with shared uptake pathways,
and fail to ensure that no component has a negative effect on the
absorption or action of other components in the formula.
Just as surely as hair will not begin to grow without appropriate
Many common vitamins and all amino acids exist as multiple
growth factors and external stimuli, hair will not continue to grow
isomers, however it is rare that both or even all forms are equally
without adequate circulation and nutrition. A balanced,
available to human metabolism. The chirality of amino acids is
bioavailable formula to protect and maintain hair growth is vital.
well established, as is the dramatic difference between left and right enantiomers in the human body. On the whole, humans can
only metabolise left or L enantiomers, such as L-Cysteine. R-Cysteine is not taken up or commonly metabolised, therefore
commonly used racemic mixtures of the two forms are only half
There is a habit among supplement formulators to include the maximum possible level of everything, “bigger is better” and they
Vitamins, such as vitamin B6 also have several forms, pyridoxine
want their label to look better than the next one.
is the form of vitamin B6 most commonly used in nutritional supplements, however it is not the bio-active form. Instead it
It is well known that this is not necessarily correct. The most
must be phosphorylated to become pyridoxal 5 phosphate, which
obvious and common example in hair loss supplements is saw
is active as an enzyme cofactor for many reactions, and is
palmetto. Opinions vary about the efficacy of saw palmetto in
important for uptake of other nutrients as well. The
vivo, but there is strong evidence from tissue sample
phosphorylation reaction to activate pyridoxine takes energy and
experiments that saw palmetto inhibits the 5α reductase enzyme
a certain set of conditions, and therefore not all the pyridoxine
responsible for converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone.
taken in a supplement is used. A more efficient alternative is to
Component analysis shows that certain fatty acids but
use pyridoxal 5 phosphate in the supplement, so the bio-active
particularly lauric acid and oleic acid are responsible for the
form is immediately available, requiring no energy, and minimal
activity of saw palmetto. Saw palmetto extract is a refined
version of the whole fruit form, and retains a high percentage of the fatty acid content whilst removing other less useful
Bioavailability is not just controlled by isomeric forms. Nutrient
uptake is complex, and there are many surprising instances where one nutrient is dramatically affected – either negatively or
Therefore it is apparent that a significantly lower dose of the
positively, by a completely different nutrient in the formula.
extract is required to deliver the same levels of active fatty acids,
Pyridoxal 5 phosphate increases L-cysteine incorporation into
one calculation estimates that 320mg of extract would have the
keratin, however as pyridoxal 5 phosphate may be a cofactor of
fatty acid component of 1500mg of the whole fruit form. An
2010 Copyright Nanogen Hair Research. Al rights reserved. This paper is for internal and professional use only and should not be shared with or acted upon by consumers
the enzyme responsible for incorporating L-cysteine into hair, this
keratin; pantothenic acid in particular is very common in the form
is unsurprising. More interesting are the studies showing that
of panthenol, the conditioning agent. However a combination of
both green tea and saw palmetto inhibit the absorption of iron.
the two has been suggested by in vitro tests to help increase hair
Whilst the mechanism for this is not entirely described, it is
repair and keratinocyte proliferation[12,13].
thought to be due to the concentrations of tannic acids in both.
There are also several obvious examples where two ingredients
Tannic acid levels are not significantly reduced when they are
act together, and these should not be ignored. For instance it is
well known that vitamin B12 and iron are both necessary for
Therefore a formula must be designed so not only are
erythrocyte formation, and hence oxygen circulation, so it is
bioavailable forms used, but the whole formula is studied for
important that a supplement contain both to significantly help this
negative interactions and targeted towards a particular concern.
Unfortunately a formula containing all of the nutrients necessary
A final, and often overlooked, factor to consider is the circulation
without a single negative interaction is rarely possible. Therefore
of oxygen and nutrients to the hair. Even a perfectly balanced
balance is essential, especially where nutrients compete for
supplement would not be effective if there was no blood flow to
the hair. Many believe that several forms of hair loss are caused or exacerbated by a deficient blood supply to the hair follicle, and
Balance is not simply a matter of including every competing
so it is possible that nutrients from a supplement could not reach
element at the same percentage. Certain nutrients will compete
the follicle in useful quantities. Therefore it may be beneficial to
more successfully than others, and all elements for healthy hair
increase the circulation. This can be achieved through topical
are necessary at different levels. The ion uptake channel for
treatments that stimulate nitric oxide production or angiogenesis.
copper, zinc and magnesium ions is a useful illustration as the
However a simpler solution may be to include a known stimulant
balance between the three competing elements is fine, and
like taurine or caffeine to increase bloodflow around the entire
taking too much of one will decrease the other two. It has been
shown separately that copper, zinc, and magnesium are important for hair growth. As well as their role in nutrition and
The stimulatory effects of caffeine and taurine on nutrient uptake
enzyme action, Copper and zinc have also both been shown to
and metabolism may also be beneficial. An added consideration
inhibit 5α reductase, although zinc has only been proven to
is the possible effect of caffeine upon dihydrotestosterone and
inhibit the type 1 isoform found in skin not hair [7,8]
hair loss. Caffeine has been shown by several studies to reduce
has been shown to correlate with certain diffuse alopecias in
hair loss caused by dihydrotestosterone, the in vivo studies were
women, but the precise cause has not been established.
successful topically, but the effects of oral caffeine have not been tested at this time. Taurine has also been shown by in vitro
However it would not be correct to create a supplement with
testing to protect the hair from TGFβ-1 induced apoptosis.
more copper, slightly less zinc, and lower magnesium content due to their proven importance. In fact as magnesium is required
at higher levels around the body comparatively it should be included at a higher dose, followed by zinc, and then copper is
It is also vital to consider the opposite possibility in complex formulae. Combinations of nutrients may improve the results of
the two nutrients separately, such as the combination of curcumin and resveratrol. Resveratrol has been extensively
studied both as an anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic agent,
however results have been limited. Curcumin has also not lived up to initial promise as an anti-inflammatory. However it has
been shown that the two work synergistically in a cancer model, to decrease inflammation and possibly angiogenesis,
although even in combination a significant anti-angiogenic effect in vivo seems unlikely.
Correct synergy can even result in a measureable effect where
neither ingredient was effective separately. L-cysteine and pantothenic acid can be useful as they are incorporated into
2010 Copyright Nanogen Hair Research. Al rights reserved. This paper is for internal and professional use only and should not be shared with or acted upon by consumersConclusion References
In spite of the paucity of clinical data in the area, it is possible
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Science, 2006. 28(4): p. 289-298. 2010 Copyright Nanogen Hair Research. Al rights reserved. This paper is for internal and professional use only and should not be shared with or acted upon by consumers
Block grant EMVO TUR, 1st Call for Proposals Application evaluation results, April 2008 SUPPORTED SUB-PROJECTS Application Requested sum Approved sum Name of applicant Name of sub-project Protection of the Environment Don't Separate Yourselves! Separate Waste with The aim of the sub-project is to make a contribution to optimization of the waste management system