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Hair Loss? It May Be Vitamin D Deficiency

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Understanding the possible connection between hair loss and vitamin D can help decide if a nutrition-based approach is the answer.


We have been hearing for a while now how milk does a body good, but have you really been thinking about how that could also affect your hair?

Vitamin D as well as other hair loss vitamins play a vital role in the overall health of your body, so it shouldn't seem too far a stretch to see the link between this vitamin and hair loss.

To make the most of your prevention efforts, it is important to gather all the data possible.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it is naturally produced in the body on exposure to sunlight.

Vitamin D describes a group of related fat-soluble steroid-like compounds. There are five known members of this group and they are identified as Vitamin D1 through D5. However, the most important ones are Vitamin D2 and D3.

Ultimately, Vitamin D is used in medical literature to refer to Vitamin D2 or D3 or both of them. These two forms of the vitamin are known as calciferol.

Since Vitamin D2 or Ergocalciferol is synthesized from ergosterol, a compound not found in vertebrates, it is ingested rather than produced in humans.

Vitamin D3, or Cholecalciferol, is synthesized in the skin from 7-dehydrocholesterol on ultraviolet irradiation.

Once obtained, Vitamin D is transported in the human body to the liver where it is converted to calcidiol, a prohormone.

Calcidiol is only converted to calcitriol, the active form of Vitamin D, in the kidney or by the cells of the immune system. From there, Vitamin D binds to a specific protein for onward transport to the various organs where it is needed.

Vitamin D is known to be essential to cell division and differentiation. It also contributes to the immune system.

However, the major role of Vitamin D is the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels in the body.

Vitamin D maintains the calcium balance by encouraging its absorption in the intestines, promoting re-absorption of the mineral in the bones, and stimulating the parathyroid to regulate serum levels of calcium.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency or hypovitaminosis D leads to improper mineralization of the bones.

This means that minerals essential to bone health such as calcium are lost instead of gained. Therefore, the bones become soft and fragile. The two most common manifestations of this are osteomalacia in adults and rickets in children.

Vitamin D deficiency is also implicated in other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and some cancers.

A 2010 study published in Dermatology Online Journal established that low levels of Vitamin D lead to inhibited hair follicle growth cycles.

How Vitamin D Works for Hair Loss Treatment

Studies have indicated for years now how Vitamin D plays a role in the condition of one's skin. Few people realize the connection between how having healthy skin on your scalp can help prevent hair loss and even stimulate regrowth.

There are some other things you should know to better understand the vitamin D hair loss link:

  • It is believed that vitamin D helps reduce hair loss because of its ability to stimulate the hair follicle. Vitamin D also is responsible for activating the cells within the hair shaft. The healthier the cells, the healthier the hair shaft.
  • Reports indicate that a good majority of people struggling with hair loss are also suffering from a vitamin D deficiency.
  • Studies have demonstrated positive results for many chemotherapy patients who were suffering hair loss and saw a turn around when using a topical gel containing vitamin D.
  • Increasing your intake of Vitamin D also means you can improve the quality of hair that grows too.

Vitamin D, VDR and Hair Loss

The link between Vitamin D and hair loss follows from the fact that Vitamin D Receptors (VDRs) contribute to hair follicle growth cycles.

Studies showed that in mice, and later in humans, mutated Vitamin D receptors always produce hair loss in subjects. Where the Vitamin D receptors are inactive, and Vitamin D cannot properly bind to them, alopecia or hair loss always presents in the individual.

Even though this results in Vitamin D deficiency, merely dosing with Vitamin D did not reverse the hair loss in mice. This might be because the mutated receptors cannot produce the proper effect even when more Vitamin D is available.

Of course, the effect has not been studied in humans, and it may be possible for Vitamin D supplementation to reverse hair loss even in individuals with mutated VDRs.

Another study, however, established the positive effects of Vitamin D analogs in reversing hair loss due to mutated VDRs. These Vitamin D analogs acted on keratinocytes to stimulate new hair growth in mice.

Keratinocytes were identified as the cells causing the defective mutated VDRs.

Furthermore, Vitamin D supplementation was found to stimulate hair growth in chemotherapy patients who have experienced hair loss due to their treatment.

While further studies are required to firmly establish the benefits of Vitamin D in reversing hair loss, positive outcomes from such preliminary studies and testimonials from people treating their alopecia with the vitamin are strong arguments in favor of the sunshine vitamin.

Dietary Sources and Recommended Intake Values

Food sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish such as catfish, sardines, eel, mackerel, salmon, and tuna.

Vitamin D can also be found in appreciable amounts in fish oils, whole eggs, liver, fortified foods as well as yeast and mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet irradiation.

Because of the risk of developing skin cancer, experts do not actively advocate exposure to sunlight to get the daily recommended intake of Vitamin D. Instead, foods rich in Vitamin D and supplements are recommended.

Therefore, published values do not take into account the Vitamin D synthesized during sun exposure.

15 micrograms per day are the recommended Vitamin D intake for anyone below 70 years. Older people are advised to ingest 20 micrograms of the vitamin daily while 10 micrograms per day are the recommended value for babies 1 year and younger.

However, the upper tolerable values for Vitamin D are 25 micrograms for babies, 75 micrograms for children below the age of 10, and 100 micrograms for anyone older.

Serum Calcidiol Levels
Less than 12 ng/ml - Vitamin D deficiency and onset of hair loss, rickets in children, and osteomalacia in adults
12-20 ng/ml - Borderline Vitamin D deficiency leading to progressive demineralization of the bones and hair thinning
20-50 ng/ml - Optimal range of Vitamin D levels to promote good health
Greater than 50 ng/ml - Vitamin D toxicity results leading to hypercalcemia and renal failure

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Vitamin D deficiencies can cause health problems that include or can lead to hair loss, but getting too much vitamin D can have adverse effects. This is especially true for those who continue to take higher than recommended doses over a prolonged period of time.

Excess amounts of vitamin D stay stored in the liver and become toxic. Some other things to keep in mind for pros and cons include:

  • Getting natural vitamin D through your diet is important, and supplements should only be used to make up for any difference in the amounts you get naturally.
  • Proper amounts of vitamin D stimulate growth, in addition to improving the health of the hair follicle and stimulating regrowth.
  • Vitamin D is an essential part of how we age and whether we will age gracefully or not. Strong bodies that continue to age well are proven to retain better eyesight, stronger bones, and healthier hair.
  • Vitamin D along with Omega 3 helps with healthy circulation and also aids in preventing or treating scalp ailments such as dandruff. It's no wonder then that there may be a connection to Omega 3 and improved scalp and hair follicles thanks to vitamin D.

While some people are under the impression that there is no connection between vitamin D and hair loss, recent research has shown that vitamin D stimulates hair follicles which leads to increase hair growth.

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