Vitamin D one of the easiest vitamins to get yet remains one of the most common vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is produced when direct sunshine hits the skin. Low vitamin D levels are most associated with brittle bones. More recently, experts from Boston University have linked it to hypertension and cancer. Researchers from Texas to Poland have been examining its connection to hair follicles in the scalp.
Vitamin D Receptors
Within the field of dermatology, experts are well aware of the impact vitamin D has on the rapid production of hair-producing cells. In 2010, researchers from the University of Texas published a study in “Dermatology Online Journal” that set out to analyze what part vitamin D and vitamin D receptors have in the life cycle of a hair cell and how it can be applied to hair loss disorder, such as alopecia. An examination of studies and reports conducted between 1955 and 2009 suggests that vitamin D receptors in the scalp are an important part of hair production and growth. Vitamin D, specifically, is much less understood, partly because few human studies exist on this topic. The researchers suggest that by scrutinizing this relationship, treating hair disorders with vitamin D therapies may occur in the future.
Vitamin D Therapy
In 2009, CNN Health reported that 70 percent of children in the United States were vitamin D deficient. The most common complication associated with insufficient levels of the vitamin in this population is rickets, or soft bones. In 2011, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine found that abnormal vitamin D receptors in kids may also cause an unusual type of hair loss on the scalp. The study, published in journal “Molecular Genetics and Metabolism” found that mutations in the vitamin D receptor at an early age could cause a strange pattern of hair loss – regions of little hair next to areas with normal hair. While the researchers determined that the life cycle of hair follicles rely on vitamin D receptors in the skin, oral vitamin D therapy did not have an impact on the hair loss or other complications of the disorder.
Type of Rickets
Vitamin D-dependent rickets is a rare disorder. Unlike other conditions associated with the vitamin, which occur in undeveloped nations, this one is most prominent in developed nations that have the resources for battling vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin D dependent rickets, however, occurs via a mutation in vitamin D receptors in the skin. In 2009, researchers from Portugal published a study in the journal “Acta Medica Portuguesa” indicating that this condition can occur with or without impacting hair follicles in the scalp, but that this symptom – hair loss – is “a peculiar sign that allowed the diagnosis.” Treatment with calcium, which can only be absorbed in the body by the presence of vitamin D, is the only way to control this disease. It doesn’t, however, reverse hair loss.
Vitamin-D dependent rickets varies from ordinary rickets in that the latter is caused by a vitamin deficiency and the former is a genetic mutation and can be inherited. Only vitamin-D dependent rickets and mutated receptors have been linked to scalp defects, and little can be done to prevent these disorders that don’t involve gene therapy -- a science that's still in its infancy. Proper supplementation of vitamin D early in life is still crucial, however, and can prevent brittle bone diseases, according to Children’s Hospital Boston.
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Vitamin D Deficiency, A Worldwide Problem with Health Consequences; M.F. Holick; April 2008
- “Dermatology Online Journal”; Karrie T. Amor; February 2010
- "Molecular Genetics and Metabolism”; Hereditary 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D-Resistant Rickets With Alopecia Resulting from a Novel Missense Mutation in the DNA-Binding Domain of the Vitamin D Receptor; P.J. Malloy, et al.; January 2010
- “Acta Medica Portuguesa”; Rickets Vitamin-D Dependent Type 2; R. Santos, et al.; January 2010
- Children’s Hospital Boston; The Scoop on Vitamin D; June 2006