Contrary to commercial claims, there are no magic bullets for increasing hair growth -- or any other type of health condition. Despite this fact, the Harvard School of Public Health reports that antioxidant supplements are a $500 million industry that continues to grow and make health claims. Antioxidants in food form may play a contributing role in hair growth by providing nutrients that are necessary for normal health functions.
The Role of Antioxidants
As the body turns food into energy, it creates byproducts known as free radicals. These chemicals have the potential to damage human cells and genetic material. Free radicals are also in the air you breathe, and may be found in food or even produced when the sun shines on your skin. Antioxidants are substances that fight free radicals. There are possibly hundreds of antioxidants, but the most common are vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and other carotenoids, selenium and magnesium.
Hair Growth and Vitamins
According to Zoe Diana Draelos, a professor at Duke University’s School’s of Medicine, vitamins may make your hair feel healthier, but they don’t increase the number of hairs on your head. In an interview in the "New York Times," Draelos says no specific vitamins contribute to hair growth, but a simple vitamin supplement may help those who have a nutritional deficiency.
Regarding nutritional deficiencies, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports that eating a well-balanced diet can prevent hair loss. For example, a vitamin C deficiency may cause dry and splitting hair, which would hinder healthy hair growth. For people with nutritional deficiencies, the University specifically recommends a multivitamin that contains the antioxidants vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium. It also specifically recommends 500 mg to 1,000 mg of the vitamin C antioxidant to be taken two times a day.
Antioxidant Vitamins in Food Sources
Vitamin A is found in such foods as beef, chicken and calf liver; eggs; fish liver oils; milk; and yogurt. Also, the body makes vitamin A from carotenoids such as beta-carotene, which are found in dark-green leafy vegetables. They are also in vegetables and fruits that are yellow in color, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, peaches and pumpkin. All fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, but the highest amounts are found in such fruits as cantaloupe, orange and grapefruit and their juices, kiwi, papaya, pineapple, mango, berries and watermelon. The highest vegetable sources of vitamin C include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green and red peppers, white and sweet potatoes, turnip greens, cabbage and spinach. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils; nuts such as almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts; seeds such as sunflower seeds; green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli; and fortified breakfast cereals.
Antioxidant Minerals in Food Sources
Sources of selenium include brewer’s yeast and wheat germ; butter; liver; such shellfish as lobster, scallops and oysters; such fish as tuna, halibut, flounder, mackerel and herring; sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts and whole grains. Magnesium sources include leafy, dark-green vegetables; such fruits and vegetables as bananas, avocados and dried apricots; such nuts as almonds and cashews; peas, beans and seeds; whole grains; and soy products.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype
- National Institutes of Health: Antioxidants
- New York Times: When Hair Loss Strikes, a Doctor is a Girl’s Best Friend
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Hair
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin A Retinol
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin C
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin E
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Selenium
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium in Diet