Hair loss affects many men and women and most individuals look for a way to prevent it, reverse it or hide it. Nutrition can play a large role, not only in the look of your hair but in the growth cycle. Essential fatty acids are important for your overall health but they also contribute to the health of your hair.
Your hair goes through a three-phase growth cycle. The first phase, called anagen, is the most active part of the growing cycle. It usually lasts anywhere from two to six years. The second phase of the cycle, called catagen, is when your hair becomes keratin, a type of protein. The last phase of the cycle, called telogen, is when your hair falls out and the hair follicle reenters the anagen phase. Hair loss occurs when your hair follicles fail to reenter the first phase. This makes the hair follicles inactive, leading to a gradual loss of hair.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids are fatty acids that the body needs but can’t produce on its own. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play a large role in brain function, normal growth and development. These fatty acids help to maintain bone health, regulate metabolism and maintain the reproductive system, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation, are abundantly found in fish and olive oil. They are also found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, garlic and wine. Omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation, are found in vegetable oils.
Essential fatty acids aid in skin and hair growth. Omega-3 fatty acids can help with blood circulation and cell growth, which are important for your hair follicles, according to the Surviving Hair Loss website. Malnutrition, stress and scalp disorders can play a part in hair loss and essential fatty acids may help to increase nutrient absorption at the hair follicles, reduce stress and enhance the immune system. A deficiency in essential fatty acids produces symptoms such as dry, scaly or flaky skin, dandruff, dry, brittle hair or eczema, according to the ProHealth website, all of which may lead to hair loss.
A 2009 study published in the “Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine” looked at the triggers for diffuse hair loss and determined that a deficiency in essential fatty acids can be associated with telogen hair shedding, typically two to four months after inadequate intake. A 2010 study published in “Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care” reviewed the nutritional factors associated with hair loss in patients being fed intravenously. Findings showed that deficiencies in essential fatty acids resulted in hair loss and regular use of lipid-containing nutrition eliminated this symptom.
It is best to consult your doctor if you feel you are experiencing hair loss in order to determine the right treatment for you. Nutrition plays a large role in the growth and health of hair. Eating a well balanced diet and drinking plenty of water will benefit your hair to keep it growing healthy.
- Dermatology Online Journal: The Control of Hair Growth
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- Surviving Hair Loss: The Link Between Omega 3 and Your Hair
- ProHealth: Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency – Signs and Symptoms, Treating vs. Testing
- PubMed: Hair Loss in Long-Term or Home Parenteral Nutrition: Are Micronutrient Deficiencies to Blame?