There are various external factors that influence the appearance of hair, especially discretionary ones such as cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse between meals which are among the most widespread and worst. On an internal level, hair, its health and strength or clarity are certainly affected by age, exposure to a particularly polluting environment and stress (especially emotional and psychological). Then it’s the turn of hormone levels; hair is positively affected by a high level of estrogens (this is why hair thins or loses tone during menopause) and negatively by an equally high level of male hormones (androgens), a phenomenon that everyone knows is partly responsible for virile “presentation” of the balding man.
And what about nutrition? Hair certainly grows from the hair bulb which is a tissue with active cellular replication. It therefore needs practically all the nutrients of the cells of similar tissues with a high rate of renewal (skin, moss, blood marrow). Today’s eating style is often characterized, however, by eating foods with too many carbohydrates and fats, but little protein, vitamins and minerals. Proteins and amino acids, therefore, are the first building block to look for: remember that hair is made up mainly of keratin, a protein particularly rich in sulphur-containing amino acids, in this case cysteine and then methionine (contained in meat and fish, lacking in legumes).
Vitamins and minerals will serve the cellular functions to be able to build this protein. This is why a good hair supplement cannot do without an adequate protein content; the major amino acids of the keratin structure are cysteine and its derivative (cystine), arginine, valine, lysine, glycine and serine. If you have food choices that are poor in these nutrients, a good hair supplement certainly cannot afford to neglect an adequate intake of micronutrients. Minerals are important, as mentioned above, because they support the functions of cells for their macromolecular synthesis. Essential minerals contained in both plant and animal foods that help the cellular renewing of the hair are iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium and copper.
Iron and zinc are used for many enzymes of cell replication, while copper is used for the tyrosinase of the cells that give color to the hair itself. Selenium is involved in the formation of enzymes against oxidative stress. Finally, vitamins complete nutritional requirements. Most hair supplements contain a standardized B complex, in which particular vitamins such as vitamin H, folic acid and vitamin C may be added. Some vitamins and antioxidants, both dietary and taken as supplements, can protect hair cells. bulb from the effects of organic stress generated by wrong, emotional and non-emotional lifestyles. Berries, kiwis, vegetables and in general fresh fruit and vegetables are suitable.
However, it must be remembered that a supplement is not a drug, nor a magic wand, nor does it replace good nutrition at the table or eliminate bad non-food choices. Taking hair supplements in the recommended doses or a few more units certainly helps the health of the hair, but it can also delay seeing the expected results, if a heavy smoker who has a disordered diet without fresh foods hopes to be able to do the his “figure”. The often heard saying “I took it, it doesn’t work” is often the case because people didn’t have the foresight to obey a few rules of food and non-food discipline. The supplement, on the other hand, is often the one that ends up in the pillory.
- Edited by Dr. Gianfrancesco Cormaci, PhD, specialist in Clinical Biochemistry.