Hair health and nutrition link: Supplements and lower fat consumption show promise
23 Sep 2021 --- Scientists are exploring the relationship between hair health and nutrition, with North American Menopause Society (NAMS) research finding that nutrient-based bioactive compounds boost hair growth in menopausal women.
Meanwhile, a Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) study linked fat consumption to increased hair loss risk.
Menopause and hair health
The NAMS study was funded by Nutraceutical Wellness, the company behind Nutrafol supplements. Nutrafol Women, for example, contains collagen, ashwagandha, saw palmetto and a host of other vitamins, minerals and nutrients to help improve hair growth. Its postpartum offering was recently found to offset hair loss.
This new study found that supplementation with bioactive compounds derived from food sources may effectively promote hair growth in perimenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal women.
“With the aging of our society and the fact that women now spend approximately one-third of their lives in the postmenopausal period, research into interventions for menopause symptoms, including hair thinning, is critical, especially with therapeutic options being so limited,” says Dr. Glynis Ablon, lead study author, from the Ablon Skin Institute and research center in California, US.
“Hair loss is a significant concern for midlife women,” adds Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director. “Additional research will help confirm the long-term efficacy of nutraceutical supplements.”
Hormones and hair loss
Hair thinning is one of the many symptoms that accompanies the menopause transition.
Approximately 40% of women over 60 years old will experience what is known as female pattern hair loss or androgenetic alopecia.
This group of women have hormone changes associated with decreased hair growth and the percentage of hairs and time spent in the anagen phase.
Researchers from the NAMS compared results at six months and twelve months of treatment and found that mean total hair counts increased significantly and progressively.
Global hair quality improvements significantly increased by 40% with few or no side effects and decreased hair shedding.
The study results will be presented during the NAMS’ Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, between September 22 to 25.
Obesity and hair health link
The TMDU study found that obesity can lead to depletion of hair follicle stem cells (HFSCs) through the induction of specific inflammatory signals, blocking hair follicle regeneration and ultimately resulting in loss of hair follicles.
The TMDU study may open the door for future prevention and treatment of hair thinning and for an understanding of obesity-related diseases, the researchers say.
The team used mouse model experiments to examine how a high-fat diet or genetically induced obesity can affect hair thinning and loss. Normally, HFSCs self-renew every hair follicle cycle. This is part of the process that allows hair to grow back continuously.
“As we age, HFSCs fail to replenish themselves, leading to fewer HFSCs and hair thinning,” the researchers say.
Although overweight people have a higher risk of androgenic alopecia, whether or not obesity accelerates hair thinning or how the molecular mechanisms behind it work have been largely unknown.
“High-fat diet feeding accelerates hair thinning by depleting HFSCs that replenish mature cells that grow hair, especially in old mice,” says Hironobu Morinaga, lead author of the study.
Sonic hedgehog signaling
Throughout the research, the gene expression compared HFSCs between HFD-fed mice and standard diet-fed mice. It also traced the fate of those HFSCs after their activation, comments Morinaga.
“We found that those HFSCs in HFD-fed obese mice change their fate into the skin surface corneocytes or sebocytes that secrete sebum upon their activation. Those mice show faster hair loss and smaller hair follicles along with depletion of HFSCs”.
“The gene expression in HFSCs from the high-fat-fed mice indicated the activation of inflammatory cytokine signaling within HFSCs,” describes Emi Nishimura, senior study author. “The inflammatory signals in HFSCs strikingly repress Sonic hedgehog signaling that plays a crucial role in hair follicle regeneration in HFSCs.
The researchers confirmed the activation of the Sonic hedgehog signaling pathway in this process could rescue the depletion of HFSCs.
“This could prevent the hair loss brought on by the high-fat diet,“ concludes Nishimura.
Edited by Nicole Kerr
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