According to a recent report people should change their diet to prevent falling hair and promote its growth, instead of depending on hundreds of lotions, creams, treatments and other therapies. Baldness and thin tress are generally associated with genetic inheritance but falling of hair is considered to be due to deficiencies in diet which is possible to be treated with appropriate foods containing the nutrients that strengthen hair and stimulate its growth. But is there sufficient clarity regarding the type of foods that can really ensure healthy hair? Unfortunately this is an area of cosmetology which is being exploited by the industry for its own gains rather than helping the desperate consumers longing for improving their appearance.
Looking at the science of hair development in humans, it is well known that each strand of hair is based on an individual follicle on the scalp of the head and there are about 100,000 such follicles for each human being. When the number is low one tends to have a less dense hair and more the number thicker will be the tress. Similarly each hair strand has the potential to grow as long as 2 meters and here again the growth rate depends on the metabolic proclivity of individuals. Generally a hair strand grows at the rate of 0.4 mm per day or on average it can grow 1.2 cm per month. A person may have curly hair if the follicles are not straight and the health of the hair is intricately linked to that of the follicles. Each hair has a life cycle made of anagen or growth phase, catagen or regression phase and telogen or resting phase. It is at the end of the telogen phase that one loses about 100 hair strands a day. The length of the hair is determined by its life cycle. A typical hair follicle spends about 2-7 years under the anagen phase when the length of the hair grows to its maximum potential. In contrast the follicles above eye brows spend only 7 months under anagen phase limiting the length of the hair there.
Hair is a structural protein going under the name Keratin and same protein occurs in nails and the outer skin also. Only mammals have the necessary mechanism for producing hair and the health of the hair in general is influenced by the diet one consumes for a normal being. Most crucial requirement in the diet is proteins while there are many auxiliary biochemicals associated with the quality of hair one may have. Zinc and Vitamin A have been reported to be important to maintain the health of the hair. Other nutrients mentioned include antioxidants, Biotin, Pantothenate etc though their exact role has not yet been elucidated clearly, though their involvement in protein synthesis could be the reason. Biotin deficiency has been shown to result in heavy loss of hair while connection between pantothenate and hair health is still not established. Biotin is a Coenzyme in the biosynthesis of fatty acids and amino acids Isoleucine and Valine. Its deficiency in normal humans is very rare since foods like peanut, egg yolk, liver, some vegetables contain adequate amounts needed daily. Besides gut microorganisms make plenty of Biotin, more than sufficient for day to day requirement. Naturally added Biotin cannot be expected to be of any benefit for improving quality of hair, unless there is a deficiency.
The practice by the cosmetic industry to add pantothenates in shampoo, touted to be good for hair color is still an issue not proven beyond any doubt. Pantothenate is a part of Coenzyme A, a key biochemical involved in synthesis and metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats and as such it is natural to expect this vitamin to play a role in Keratin synthesis also with the possibility of improved hair quality. But deficiency of Pantothenate has not been prevalent in any part of the world as practically every food humans eat has this vitamin in varying concentrations. Most conspicuous sources include whole cereal grains, legumes, egg, meat, yogurt etc. Shampoo manufacturers, at least some, still make products containing Pantothenate derivatives, claiming improvement in hair quality but it has been proved beyond doubt that such shampoo preparations do not have any impact at all. .
Including Keratin in food does not help any way because this protein is not digested in the gut, simply passing through without any nutrient being made available for absorption across the intestine. Composition wise Keratin, like other proteins, contains at least 16 amino acids, with Cysteine , Serine and Glutamic acid constituting almost 41%. The strong sulfide bonds between the peptide strands make it resistant to breakdown chemically or enzymatically under normal conditions. Therefore in stead of thinking of consumption of Keratin for improvement of hair, it is more appropriate if the constituent amino acids are ingested through easily digestible foods. The foolishness in using shampoo containing Keratin can be evident from the fact that this protein is not absorbed into hair follicles and is washed away without any real benefit.
It is but natural to wonder whether there is any single food ingredient that can help grow hair healthy and rich and the inevitable conclusion is that one can have normal hair with no fear of shedding or graying if a balanced diet containing a variety of components like vegetables, whole grains, legumes, egg, yogurt, meat etc. Symptoms of hair loss may occur if there is imbalance in the action of Testosterone which has an influence on hair growth. Of course serious cases of hair loss may have to be treated from a medical angle and there are approved drugs like Minoxidil and Propecia which are extensively used to treat baldness in many countries.