Many claim that healthy hair growth is a sign of health or beauty. Like any other part of your body, hair needs a variety of nutrients to grow and be healthy. In fact, many nutritional deficiencies are related to hair loss. Although factors such as age, genetics and hormones also affect hair growth, optimal nutrient intake is key. Here are 5 vitamins and 3 other nutrients that can be important for hair growth.
1. Vitamin A:
All cells need vitamin A to grow. This includes the hair, the fastest growing tissue in the human body. Vitamin A also helps the skin glands make an oily substance called sebum. Sebum moisturizes the scalp and helps keep hair healthy. Vitamin A-deficient diets can lead to several problems, including hair loss. While it is important to get enough vitamin A, taking too much can be dangerous. Studies show that an overdose of vitamin A can also contribute to hair loss. Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, spinach and kale are all high in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A. Vitamin A can also be found in animal products such as milk, eggs and yogurt. Cod liver oil is a particularly good source.
Summary: Your hair needs vitamin A to stay hydrated and grow. Some foods that represent an important source are: sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale and some animal foods.
2. Vitamins B:
One of the best known vitamins for hair growth is a vitamin B called biotin. Studies link biotin deficiency with hair loss in humans. Although biotin is used as an alternative treatment for hair loss, those who have biotin deficiency get better results. However, biotin deficiency is very rare because it is found naturally in a wide range of foods. Nor is there enough data to determine whether biotin is effective for hair growth in healthy individuals.
“Other B vitamins help create red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and hair follicles. These processes are important for hair growth”.
You can get B vitamins from many foods, such as whole grains, almonds, meat, fish, shellfish, and green leaves. In addition, animal foods are the only optimal sources of vitamin B12. So if you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, consider taking a supplement.
Summary: B vitamins help transport oxygen and nutrients to the scalp, which helps in hair growth. Whole grains, meat, shellfish and dark and leafy green vegetables are all good sources of vitamin B.
3. Vitamin C:
Free radical damage can block growth and make your hair age. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against oxidative stress caused by free radicals. In addition, your body needs vitamin C to create a protein known as collagen – an important part of the hair structure. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron, a mineral necessary for hair growth. Strawberries, peppers, guavas and citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C.
Summary: Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen and can help prevent hair aging. Peppers, citrus fruits and strawberries are good sources of vitamin C.
4. Vitamin D:
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to alopecia, a technical term for hair loss. Research also shows that vitamin D can help create new follicles, the tiny pores in the scalp where new hair can grow. Vitamin D is thought to play a role in hair production, but most research focuses on vitamin D receptors. The actual role of vitamin D in hair growth is unknown. That said, most people do not get enough vitamin D and it may be a good idea to increase their intake. Your body produces vitamin D through direct contact with the sun’s rays. Good dietary sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, cod liver oil, some mushrooms and fortified foods.
Summary: The real role of vitamin D in hair growth is not understood, but a form of hair loss is related to deficiencies of this vitamin. Vitamin D levels can be increased through exposure to the sun or by eating certain foods.
5. Vitamin E:
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that can prevent oxidative stress. In one study, people with hair loss experienced a 34.5% increase in hair growth after increasing vitamin E intake for 8 months. The group that consumed the placebo had only a 0.1% increase. Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and avocados are all good sources of vitamin E.
Summary: Vitamin E helps prevent oxidative stress and stimulates hair growth. Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and avocados are good dietary sources of vitamin E.
Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to the cells. This makes it an important mineral for many bodily functions, including hair growth. Iron deficiency, which causes anemia, is one of the main causes of hair loss. It is especially common in women. Some foods high in iron are clams, oysters, eggs, red meat, spinach and lentils.
Summary: Iron deficiency is an important cause of hair loss, especially in women. The best sources of iron include clams, oysters, eggs, red meat, spinach and lentils.
Zinc plays an important role in the growth and repair of hair tissues. It also helps keep the oil glands around the follicles functioning properly. Hair loss is a common symptom of zinc deficiency. Studies show that zinc supplements reduce hair loss caused by zinc deficiency. However, there are some anecdotal reports that indicate that taking too high a dose can also contribute to hair loss. For this reason, it may be better to get zinc from food. Zinc-rich foods include oysters, beef, spinach, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and lentils.
Summary: The mineral zinc can improve hair growth in people who are deficient in it. Good sources of zinc include oysters, meat and pumpkin seeds.
Hair is almost completely produced from protein. Consuming enough protein is important for hair growth. Animal studies show that protein deficiency can decrease hair growth and even cause hair loss. However, real protein deficiency is extremely rare in Western countries.
Summary: Eating enough protein is important for hair growth, although a protein deficiency is rare in Western countries these days.
Should Hair Supplements be Taken?
Food is the best source of the vitamins you need for hair growth. However, if you don’t get enough in your diet, supplements can be helpful. According to research, supplements work best in individuals who are already deficient. In addition, large doses of vitamins and minerals can be harmful if they are not deficient. So see a doctor to determine if you have a deficiency or not. At the end of the day, the best way to obtain these nutrients is by eating a balanced diet.