What Role Does Nutrition Play in Hair Loss?

By Gene Marcovici

While botanically-derived substances may certainly play a positive role in ameliorating the onset and progression of pattern hair loss, 'good nutrition' has not, per se, been demonstrated to have a like beneficial effect. The two notions may sound similar at first blush, but we will now explore how they differ. A simple proof-of-principle is instructive. One may observe numerous unfortunate souls who are homeless, poorly nourished, and even starving. Often, these people lack the most basic access to health care, clean water and good food. Yet, no higher degree of pattern hair loss is found in homeless shelter populations. If good nutrition was a prerequisite to good hair than many if not most homeless people should be balding. But this is simply the case. Accordingly, poor nutrition does not necessarily lead to baldness just as 'good nutrition' does not necessarily equate to 'good hair'. So if nutrition doesn't play a critical role in hair loss, something a bit more esoteric must be at work. But what? First of all, it is helpful to consider the steroid hormone driven biochemical, genetic and epigenetic context under which pattern hair loss occurs. To begin, it has been conclusively shown that the conversion of the precursor androgen hormone testosterone (T) to its more pathological metabolite dihydrotestosterone (DHT) via the enzyme 5-alpha reductase sets pattern hair loss in motion, as a match lights a fuse to ignite a stick of dynamite. Strikingly, this hormonal pathway is widely understood to trigger several disorders including benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and common pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia (AGA). Immediately, one comprehends that a useful therapeutic target would be the blockade of one or more steps associated with DHT metabolism. In fact, a number of drugs, including finasteride and dutasteride, have been designed with this goal in mind. And in fact, due to their ability to down-regulate DHT metabolism, both finasteride and dutasteride have demonstrated benefit in AGA as well as BPH. Because both drugs are linked to negative side effect, safer alternatives have been sought. Saw palmetto extract represents one such possibility. A number of well-controlled European clinical trials show that saw palmetto extract exhibits some benefit in ameliorating the clinical signs and symptoms of BPH. Basic science studies show that key fatty acids and sterols in saw palmetto block 5-alpha reductase. These findings are certainly interesting, but where does that leave us in regard to our original question pertaining to diet and hair loss? Here, intriguing anecdotal evidence suggests that a diet steeped in androgen-rich steroid hormones could indeed play a role in pattern hair loss. Some authors report that prior to World War Two, AGA was almost unknown in Japan. A recent study undertaken on hair loss in Thailand proffers a similar conclusion. In both cases, the evidence tends to suggest that the conversion from a typically Asian diet rich in fish, rice and vegetables, to a Western diet filled with red meat and mammalian animal fat seemed to coincide with a statistically-relevant uptick in the occurrence of pattern hair loss in Asia. Recent studies support this hypothesis and point to targeted supplementation as a means to blunt the onset and progression of AGA. In 2002 a modest clinical trial in which the author of this article participated showed, for the first time, benefit for a naturally-derived composition containing saw palmetto and its glycoside betasitosterol in the treatment of AGA. So substances like saw palmetto constitute a useful beginning, but they are not the complete answer. Here's why. Pattern hair loss is described in the literature as a 'complex trait disorder' -- meaning that numerous genetic,

biochemical and environmental factors are at play. So, from a practical standpoint, 5-alpha reductase blockade will only accomplish so much, therapeutically. Okay, if blocking 5AR will only fix part of the problem where do we go from there? Published basic science studies point to pathologic inflammation as a contributing factor in the AGA disease process. Recently, a novel idea was put forward to combine naturallybased 5-alpha reductase inhibitors with naturally-derived anti inflammatory agents as a dual-mechanism treatment. The idea here is to create an additive or synergistic effect. A newly published university-based study supports the thrust of this hypothesis. Persons interested in learning more are encouraged to review the following published research monograph: http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/nep102. For objective information on nutrition and hair loss, one is encouraged to visit the worldwide scientific medical database Medline which can easily be accessed via Yahoo or Google. For those wishing to compare one hair loss treatment against another, a good start would be the commercially-driven but excellently structured website www.onlyhairloss.com. Hair Genesis®, http://www.hairgenesis.com, constitutes the sole non-drug hair loss treatment successfully proven under university-based and IRB-monitored peer-reviewed and published clinical research. Hair Genesis® is safe, effective and clinically proven. Try Hair Genesis® today!

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