Folate deficiency and hair loss
Folate deficiency and hair loss

WHAT IS FOLIC ACID?

Folate is an essential B complex vitamin required by the body to perform its everyday functions.

This vitamin is also necessary to convert carbohydrates to glucose, for the production of red blood cells (prevents anemia), and is an essential requirement in the formation of DNA.

There is a subtle difference between folate acid and folate. Folate is found in leafy vegetables while folic acid is a synthetic form found in dietary supplements.  When foods containing folate are consumed, certain processes readily convert the folate into levomefolic acid, an active form.  Folic acid ingested through supplements, is metabolised by the liver.

FOLIC ACID AND DNA SYNTHESIS OF KERATIN

DNA provides a template for a cell to make the proteins it needs to survive.  The survival of a cell is based on a number of different proteins that coordinate functions within a cell.  These proteins, which include enzymes, do specialised jobs and control the acivities of the cell.  Different cells have different activities, so whilst all calls contain the same DNA, different cells will only use certain segments of DNA.

Within a hair follicle, one of the segments of DNA utilised produces keratin, lots and lots of keratin.  The keratin produced by the hair follicle makes long fiblres and continues to grow within the dermis (just under scalp level). This keratin emerges from your scalp as hair.

The repair of DNA is governed by a collection of processes that allows a cell to identify and repair damage to DNA.

Damage to DNA causes a change in the DNA sturcture and prevents normal replication.  DNA methylation is a process by which methyl groups  are added to DNA without any change to the DNA sequence.  DNA methylation typically acts to repress DNA transcription.  Repression of DNA transcription in the hair follicle leads to repressed keratin production.

STUDIES SUPPORTING THE USE OF FOLATE FOR HAIR GROWTH

A study examined the folate levels of 52 candidates who reported premature graying and hair loss. The folate levels measured were then compared to the levels in healthy patients of the same age group. The results indicated that the levels of folate in people with hair loss were much lower than the people with no reported hair loss [1].

The department of Nutritional Sciences from the University of Toronto, Canada conducted an in-detail study to establish the relation of hair follicle growth to folate. Here is what they found:

  • Folate is an essential micronutrient required for healthy hair growth, regeneration, and cell division.
  • Folate, in conjunction with Vitamin C and Vitamin B12, is responsible for the buildup of proteins that make up hair.
  • The production and maintenance of DNA, RNA, and proteins are crucial for the growth of every type of cell, including hair follicles. Without folate, these essentials for hair growth are not produced in sufficient quantities, leading to slowed hair growth and hair loss.
  • Folate prevents anemia from occurring. In anemic people, the capability of red blood cells to carry oxygen is decreased, resulting in oxidative stress.
Folate rich foods

Folate rich food. High folate foods include beans, lentils, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, avocado and lettuce.

Credit: Independant Nurse

WHEN IS IT APPROPRIATE TO OPT FOR FOLIC ACID SUPPLEMENTS?

Always go for natural food sources of folate rather than opt for folic acid supplements if you can. You can use folic acid supplements if you have poor digestion, a folate deficiency or when your doctor has recommended you prevent imbalance. Pregnant women may need additional folic acid supplements to meet their daily requirements.

Each of the functions occurring within our body is a combination of different processes that occur in synchronization. Folate does influence healthy hair growth and maintenance. However, it does this through a series of complex processes that do need not just folate, but other micronutrients too.

REFERENCES

  1. Daulatabad D, Singal A, Grover C, Chhillar N. Prospective analytical controlled study evaluating serum biotin, vitamin b12, and folic acid in patients with premature canities. International Journal of Trichology. 2017 Jan;9(1):19.

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