(NaturalHealth365) Most everyone expects they will get gray hair in their later years. However, some individuals see their first gray hairs well before middle age – in their 20s and 30s. Some have even found gray hairs while still in high school. So, the question remains: what does research tell us about the connection between dietary issues and gray hair?
Naturally, family genetics and (mental/emotional) stress can play a part in premature gray hair. But, there is another possible cause within nutritional deficiencies. Of course, the good news is that it’s completely avoidable.
The connection between gray hair, oxidative stress and melanin production
Melanin is what gives our skin, hair, eyes and organs their color. It is also a known antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory, radioprotective and immunomodulatory qualities. It also assists in lowering blood sugar and protecting the gastrointestinal system and the liver.
Gray, silver or white hair results when melanin production slows down. This normally occurs gradually over several decades in the middle to later years of life.
With premature gray hair, high levels of oxidative stress from reactive oxygen and hydroxyl radicals adversely impact melanin-producing cells called melanocytes. Simply put, premature gray hair is essentially evidence of an accelerated aging process.
Melanin is derived from the amino acids tyrosine, methionine and cysteine as well as the nutrients iron, vitamin B12, copper and zinc. A lack of even one key nutritional component can result in impaired melanin production.
Other factors that lead to premature gray hair
A recent study of Indian persons age 25 and younger found a connection between premature gray hair and low levels of vitamin B12, HDL (‘good’) cholesterol and serum ferritin. A study of young people, 20-years-old and younger who had premature gray hair showed low levels of iron, copper and zinc.
Researchers have also found certain variables that increase the risk of premature gray hair. Smoking increases the risk of premature gray hair by 2.5 times. In addition, other factors that accelerate the graying process include, family health history, metabolic disorders, chronic exposure to environmental toxins and emotional trauma.
According to the research, premature gray hair can indicate impending heart disease, osteoporosis or autoimmune disorders. Thyroid issues, skin pigmentation disorders, anemia, hypogonadism, adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease and Werner’s Syndrome have all been linked with the early onset of gray hair.
Premature gray hair represents a higher risk for heart disease and osteoporosis
A study published in the journal Internal Medicine evaluated over 200 patients with premature gray hair but no history of cardiovascular disease. Premature gray hair was found to be associated with increased Carotid Intima-Media Thickness (CIMT), one of the markers of a higher risk of heart disease.
Oxidative stress is one of the precursors to osteoperosis. Other research has determined that taking PPIs (proton-pump inhibitors) can further impair melanin production and increase the risk of heart disease and other issues.
No doubt, ensuring ideal nutrition (especially early in life) is the best way to reduce the risk of premature gray hair. Be sure to get adequate amounts of B12, iron, copper, zinc and clean (non-toxic) protein into your diet.
If you have serious concerns, check with a trusted, healthcare provider – that appreciates the value of good nutrition. And, avoid cigarette smoke, alcohol and unwanted (emotional/mental) stress.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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