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Hair Loss and Nutrition

Hair loss or baldness or loss of hair is referred to as alopecia. Alopecia totalis means the loss of all scalp hair. Alopecia universalis means the loss of all body hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes. Alopecia areata means that hair is falling out in patches, which is a temporary condition and rarely leads to baldness.

Factors causing hair loss include heredity, hormones, and aging. Researchers have yet to nail down the exact cause(s) of hair loss, but some scientists believe that the body’s immune system mistakes hair follicles for foreign tissues and attacks them. Others suspect a genetic component.

Not quite so dramatic, but a more common type of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia (AGA), or male pattern baldness. AGA is common in men. As the name implies, a genetic or hereditary predisposition to the disorder and the presence of androgens—which are male sex hormones—are involved in this condition. Research indicates that the hair follicles of individuals susceptible to AGA may have receptors programmed to slow down or shut off hair production under the influence of androgens

Women sometimes have the same type of hair loss, but it is not usually as extensive and most often does not occur until after menopause. All women experience some hair thinning as they grow older, especially after menopause, but in some it begins as early as puberty. In addition, most women lose some hair two or three months after having a baby because hormonal changes prevent normal hair loss during pregnancy.

A species of tiny mites, Demodex follicularum, may be the cause of, or a contributing factor to, balding. These mites are present in virtually all hair follicles by the time a person reaches middle age, and in most cases cause no harm. Researchers believe that the difference between people who lose their hair and those who don’t may lie in how the scalp reacts to the presence of these mites. If the body initiates an inflammatory response as it tries to reject the mites, this may close down the hair follicles, thus killing the mites but also killing the hair.

In addition to heredity, factors that promote hair loss include poor circulation, acute illness, surgery, radiation exposure, skin disease, sudden weight loss, high fever, iron deficiency, diabetes, thyroid disease, drugs such as those used in chemotherapy, stress, poor diet, ringworm and other fungal infections, chemicals such as hair dyes, and vitamin deficiencies.

Important note: It is normal to lose between 50 to 100 hairs a day.


Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that Rogaine, the popular Upjohn Company hair growth treatment that now has been approved by the FDA for over the counter sales, may cause heart changes if used for long periods. Also, although using minoxidil (the artery-widening drug first used to treat high blood pressure, and later found to encourage the re-growth of scalp hair, which is the active ingredient in Rogaine) does result in hair growth, the quality of hair is usually poor, and hair growth ceases when you stop using it.

Researchers at Cornell University say that gene therapy may someday be used to stimulate hair growth. They have discovered that hair follicles that have been genetically “turned off” can, in effect, be “turned on” again.

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