Fish Oil & Hair Loss

mid section view of a female nurse holding cod liver oil pills
Fish oil can improve the health of your hair, but won't necessarily stop loss. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

As you age, some hair loss might be inevitable. How much hair you lose may have a genetic component. However, nutritional and dietary factors, including the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, can influence your overall health and the health of your skin, scalp and follicles, which can, in turn, improve the health of your hair. You might not totally prevent hair loss, but you can make the hair you have healthier.

Hair Loss Causes

The chief causes of hair loss include scarring and nonscarring alopecia and androgenic alopecia. Nonscarring alopecia is reversible and is characterized by inflammation; hair loss all over, including lashes, eyebrows and pubic area; a receding hair line; and a smooth scalp. Scarring alopecia occurs only in particular areas, and is characterized by lesions, violet-colored skin abnormalities, inflammation at the edge of the lesion and destruction and loss of the hair follicles. The most common cause of hair loss is androngenic alopecia, which is also called male pattern baldness. It is caused by an androgen called dihydrotestosteron, which seems to contribute to inflammation of the hair follicle. It affects about half of men by age 50. It also affects some women, causing a thinning of hair all over the scalp. Hair shaft disorders, usually associated with hereditary abnormalities, can also result from certain diseases or overprocessing of hair.

Omega-3 Effects

Fish oil contains essential omega-3 fatty acids which contribute to brain function, growth, and development, as well as cellular maintenance and repair. They stimulate skin, hair and follicle growth. Omega-3 fatty acids contribute directly to maintaining both the integrity and the permeability of cell membranes, allowing essential compounds to pass into the cell. Omega-3 fatty acids also function as powerful antioxidants that reduce the destructive effect that free radicals cause to cell membranes, mitochondria -- the energy plants of the cells -- and follicles. Also, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish promote anti-inflammatory processes of the immune system, and so they reduce the inflammation that can contribute to hair loss. While current research does not demonstrate that fish oil prevents hair loss, omega-3 fatty acids do enhance skin and scalp health, reducing scaling and dryness. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises that you include antioxidants in your diet and consider using omega-3 supplements, such as fish oil to help reduce symptoms of hair disorders.

Dosage

If you eat fish at least twice a week your diet probably already contains sufficient omega-3 fatty acids, suggests the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you don’t, then consider supplementation. The FDA does not provide recommendations for the minimum daily amount of omega-3 fatty acids, but the DHA-EPA Omega-3 Institute advises that adult men take at least 1.6 g and women 1.1 g of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil capsules vary in the amount of omega-3 fatty acids they contain. Regular fish oil capsules typically contain about 300 mg of a combination of EPA and DHA, the two essential fatty acids contained in fish oil.

Caution

Fish oil can interact with medications or complicate certain medical conditions. For example, fish oil can lower glucose in people with Type 2 diabetes, particularly those taking medications that affect insulin. Fish oil also thins blood and can lead to excessive bleeding, swelling or bruising if taken with blood thinners. Always consult with your physician before starting fish oil.

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