Therapy for Alopecia: The Right Nutrients
According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, almost 7 million Americans are affected by alopecia areata (AA). This form of hair loss is caused by an autoimmune condition. In this case, the body’s own immune system attacks hair follicles and normal growth, causing patches of hair loss on the scalp, and beard.
Those suffering from the condition are typically on the younger side – 21 to 40 years old, evenly distributed between men and women. While there are some conventional treatments for AA, as there are for other autoimmune diseases, researchers believe that supplementation can offer a low-risk option.
Some nutrients, including folate (folic acid), zinc, and vitamin D are lower in those who deal with AA versus those who do not. Vitamin D is essential for immune system moderation, healthy cellular structure, and overall resilience, so it should definitely be part of a hair restorative regimen. Other minerals and vitamins are enzyme co-factors and help replenish the high nutrient turnover that healthy hair demands. A combination that includes vitamin D, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin A could help stop hair loss and rebalance the immune response to prevent incidences of AA in the future.
Thompson JM, Mirza MA, Park MK, Qureshi AA, Cho E. The Role of Micronutrients in Alopecia Areata: A Review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2017;18(5):663–679.
Alopecia areata (AA) is a common, non-scarring form of hair loss caused by immune-mediated attack of the hair follicle. As with other immune-mediated diseases, a complex interplay between environment and genetics is thought to lead to the development of AA. Deficiency of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals may represent a modifiable risk factor associated with development of AA. Given the role of these micronutrients in normal hair follicle development and in immune cell function, a growing number of investigations have sought to determine whether serum levels of these nutrients might differ in AA patients, and whether supplementation of these nutrients might represent a therapeutic option for AA. While current treatment often relies on invasive steroid injections or immunomodulating agents with potentially harmful side effects, therapy by micronutrient supplementation, whether as a primary modality or as adjunctive treatment, could offer a promising low-risk alternative. However, our review highlights a need for further research in this area, given that the current body of literature largely consists of small case-control studies and case reports, which preclude any definite conclusions for a role of micronutrients in AA. In this comprehensive review of the current literature, we found that serum vitamin D, zinc, and folate levels tend to be lower in patients with AA as compared to controls. Evidence is conflicting or insufficient to suggest differences in levels of iron, vitamin B12, copper, magnesium, or selenium. A small number of studies suggest that vitamin A levels may modify the disease. Though understanding of the role for micronutrients in AA is growing, definitive clinical recommendations such as routine serum level testing or therapeutic supplementation call for additional studies in larger populations and with a prospective design.