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Which vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss and how it can be replenished?

In this week’s blog we are going to discuss hair loss. Specifically, which vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss, and how it can be replenished. So let’s get right to it!

Let’s start with what we do know, and that is vitamins and minerals play key roles for normal cell growth and function, and if they are deficient, hair loss may occur. But trying to determine which vitamins and minerals are deficient, and which type of condition is leading to hair loss, makes this subject a bit more complicated than we may have first thought.

What vitamins help restore hair loss?

When we talk about hair loss, we usually think about conditions such as androgenetic alopecia, telogen effluvium and alopecia areata. The latter two conditions we have recently discussed in a previous blog. We know that nutrients consisting of vitamins and minerals play key roles in the normal hair follicle cycle, being an important factor in follicle bulb cellular turnover and division. Frequently, vitamins A, B, C, D and E, as well as iron, selenium, and zinc have been implicated as playing important roles in hair health, but what do we really know about them? Let’s have a look at them individually to help you with any supplementation decisions you may be considering for hair loss.

Vitamin A - For most of us, a healthy and balanced diet will supply us with sufficient levels of vitamin A, which is important for healthy hair. But as we know, vitamin A can come in two forms – preformed vitamin A, which comes from animal sources, and provitamin A which is sourced from plants. However, very high levels of preformed vitamin A can be toxic, with a recommended upper limit of 10,000 IU. If you are supplementing, it is important to know which form of vitamin A you are receiving. Ingesting too much vitamin A, either through diet or supplementation, can cause hair loss.

Vitamin B - The vitamin B family consists of thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6, biotin (B7), folate (B9) and vitamin B12. With the exception of B1, B2 and B3, all are in our product. Again, eating a healthy balanced diet will provide you with the recommended daily allowances for each of these. Within the vitamin B family, only riboflavin, biotin, folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies have been associated with hair loss. While a riboflavin deficiency is rare in the USA, a biotin deficiency can be acquired by excessive consumption of raw eggs, drinking too much alcohol, pregnancy, prolonged use of antibiotics and medications such as valproic acid, which may be used to combat epilepsy, and eventually lead to hair loss, brittle nails, and skin rashes. Folate deficiency (also frequently associated with excessive alcohol consumption and/or poor diet) can also lead to hair loss and changes in skin and hair appearance. However, scientific studies have provided little evidence that supplementing with B2, B7, B9, or B12 will help with hair loss, and in fact, it should be reiterated that over-supplementation with biotin can interfere with certain medical diagnostic tests, so if you are supplementing with biotin, you should let your family physician know.

Vitamin CThough we all know the powerful antioxidant effects of vitamin C, there really is no solid evidence correlating hair loss with vitamin C intake. But that is not to say it cannot be important. Vitamin C is an important contributor to the intestinal absorption of iron, and as such will be an important factor for patients experiencing hair loss that is associated with an iron deficiency, which we will discuss later.

Vitamin D – There is some evidence to suggest that vitamin D is associated with hair loss due to alopecia areata, with vitamin D blood serum levels being inversely proportional to the severity of the condition. The results led to the recommendation that supplementation should be considered for those patients. However, these results appear to pertain only to alopecia areata. The role of vitamin D in female pattern hair loss or as a result of telogen effluvium are somewhat more ambiguous.

Vitamin E – Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant, and based on results from several studies that consistently demonstrate higher levels of biomarkers indicative of oxidative stress and lower levels of protective antioxidants in patients with alopecia areata, one would be led to believe there may be a benefit of vitamin E in preventing hair loss via alopecia areata. But again, much like vitamin C, results from different studies are inconsistent.

Iron – A deficiency in iron appears to be common in women experiencing hair loss, but a great deal of debate is still ongoing about this, with one problem being that menstruation is one of the biggest causes of iron deficiency but is a confounding variable in studies attempting to relate serum iron levels and hair loss.

Selenium – Most of us will receive the daily recommended allowance of selenium if we eat a well-balanced diet. But if one does decide to supplement, one should be wary not to over-supplement (ie. greater than 400 mg/day) and induce selenium toxicity. Hair loss is a symptom of selenium toxicity, along with nausea and vomiting, nail brittleness, and bad breath.

Zinc – Zinc deficiency is usually associated with alopecia, but also linked with telogen effluvium and brittle hair, but like many of the other vitamins and minerals discussed, results of supplementation are varied, and the best result may be achieved simply by resorting to a balanced diet.

Takeaway Message

This week we discussed which vitamin deficiencies cause hair loss and how it can be replenished. Though there were conflicting results to greater or lesser extents for pretty much all of the vitamins and minerals we discussed, a few stood out from the pack. These included iron and zinc (the latter is an ingredient in our product) as well as selenium – though in the USA, selenium deficiency is quite rare. With respect to vitamins, a deficiency in vitamin D seems to have the most evidence of contributing to hair loss. The important message here is to remember that if you are deficient in one or two vitamins and minerals, there is probably a good chance you are deficient in others as well, and any hair loss you experience may be through a combined effect of several deficiencies. If you maintain a well-balanced diet, you should not have any deficiencies, and thus any hair loss will likely be a result of some other phenomenon that you should have checked by a professional. Also, be very cautious of self-diagnosing a vitamin deficiency and ending up over-supplementing. Some of these vitamins and minerals can be somewhat toxic when taken in excessive quantities.


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