Skin Care

Losing your Hair … Please check your Iron!

Losing your Hair … Please check your Iron!

So what do we know? Deficiencies of ​riboflavin​, ​biotin​, ​zinc​, ​iron​, or ​iodine​; ​iron overload​, selenium toxicity,​ and ​vitamin A toxicity can all cause hair loss, or in medical jargon, alopecia, but none of these has as much evidence for being a very common cause of hair loss as iron deficiency. Yes, know your iron status please.

As reviewed here:

·         In women with alopecia areata (round patches of hair falling out), serum ferritin was less than half the values of controls, but this was not true for women with alopecia totalis (the whole head) or universalis (losing hair all over the body). There was no difference in hemoglobin levels, showing that low serum ferritin was a more useful marker in this case.
·         In women with androgenetic alopecia, which is known colloquially as male pattern baldness, and causes a receding hairline in men but not in women (in women it causes universal thinning), ferritin was 38% lower than in controls. In women under 40, the difference was even larger, 62% lower in cases than controls. Again, no difference in hemoglobin.
·         In 100 women with androgenetic alopecia, the first 50 were tested and 36 of them had ferritin concentrations below that of the lowest control
·         Another study, not reviewed in the previous reference, found that 97 men with male pattern baldness had 47% lower ferritin than 97 healthy controls (similar results in women), though other markers were not different and none had diagnosable iron deficiency.

Convincing hey. Thus, if you know you qualify as deficient it’s a much surer bet that fixing the deficiency will get rid of the hair loss. So be proactive please. What’s a healthy ferritin above 50 for sure, but remember we look at all the iron panel as some of us have a fatty liver that gives us a false high. So you need all markers in a healthy range.

How Does Iron Help Hair Loss?

Some potential mechanisms mentioned in human studies include these:

·         Iron is a cofactor for ribonucleotide reductase, which is rate-limiting for DNA synthesis and thus needed for cellular proliferation, and hair follicle cells have high differentiation rate so will depend on this enzyme.
·         Stearyl CoA desaturase is an iron-dependent enzyme needed for oleic acid production, and loss of this enzyme causes hair loss in mice.

One study found that in human keritinocytes, iron deficiency impaired keratin expression while cysteine abolished this effect. Keratin is an important component of hair. It appears that cysteine upregulated ferritin, which helped retain iron in the cell that would have otherwise been depleted by the chelator they were using to induce iron deficiency. However, as I covered in Understanding Iron, hydrogen sulfide releases iron from ferritin. Cysteine is the main source of hydrogen sulfide. So it is also possible cysteine would support the dynamic release of iron from ferritin, making it available for use in iron-dependent enzymes.
This study found that topical application of 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA, a precursor to heme, which contains iron), was slightly better at stimulating hair growth in mice than iron alone, but that topical application of both together was much better and was as effective as minoxidil, which is used for androgenic alopecia.

Even Minoxidil a gold standard  is thought to work by increasing blood supply to the follicle. This mouse study suggests the effect of iron is mediated by heme synthesis. So Correct iron imbalance first.
Further, the systemic delivery of oxygen would be improved by increased heme synthesis in red blood cell precursors of the bone marrow, so topical application is probably increasing heme synthesis in the follicle itself, and that is probably working through improved mitochondrial energy metabolism.

After all, if delivering oxygen to the hair follicle works, then you can bet the farm that improving energy metabolism in the hair follicle by any other means will work, because the whole point of delivering oxygen to the hair follicle is to use in in the mitochondrial respiratory chain to make ATP.
Iron is also a cofactor for thyroid peroxidase, and is every single bit as essential to thyroid hormone production as iodine is. Hypothyroidism is famous for causing hair loss.

The Bottom Line for a Beautiful Head of hair …

A beautiful head of hair is biological peacocking, the original form of peacocking, bragging to everyone around you that you have extra ATP the way some people buy Lambos and boats to show off their extra cash. There is a small but compelling dataset suggesting iron is commonly the limiting nutritional factor for ATP production in the hair follicle and that optimizing iron status is often the lowest-hanging fruit to improve energy metabolism and reduce hair loss.
If I recommend an iron supplement it’s always a chelated version ( looks like food).
Optimising iron status should be done by checking your levels. For an appointment, please send us an email at [email protected] or give us a call at (07) 3862 6000.

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