Hair Health  

Growing More Hair
By Michael Mooney - Updated March, 2015.

Iron And Hair Loss

Several studies have shown associations with low body stores of iron and hair loss. These include studies with women. When I interviewed one of the world's authorities on hair loss, Gary Perrault, MD, of Beverly Hills, California, he told me that one of the first things he looks at when there is hair loss is the person's body stores of iron, as measured by the blood test called "ferritin." If ferritin is below 40 ng/mL he recommends that the person supplement with iron to get their ferritin level up. However, he says, hair does even better at 70 ng/mL. This can require high dosage iron supplementation, perhaps 100 mg a day, as determined by your doctor. However, supplementation with as little as 24 to 48 mg per day has also been used. How much do you need? It is best to work with your doctor doing blood tests to determine this. Ask them to test "ferritin."

I Took Extra Iron (Updated November, 2006)
I have been taking a very high-potency anti-aging multi-vitamin that contains 40 mg of iron carbonyl since 1976. Since I had been battling a little bit of hair loss and my ferritin measured 22 ng/mL in May, 2006 when I spoke with Dr. Perrault, I began to add extra iron to my current regimen. Apparently I was a poor iron absorber.

I added iron as an extra 100 milligrams of iron carbonyl, twice a day, three days per week, so it amounted to an extra 200 mg on three days per week.

I didn't take it every day because it's a large dose and I didn't want to load my body with a large dose every day.

I also take 800 of daily vitamin E, which has been shown to protect the liver from lethal iron toxicity.

Ask your doctor before taking high dose iron for any reason.

As of October, 2010, I found that I only needed to take an extra 50 mg of iron carbonyl every other day, made by Rexall Sundown. This is only one of a few sources of iron carbonyl that I am aware of. It is available on the internet and from a few drugs stores around the USA.

Iron Forms and Constipation
I found that iron protein succinylate caused acute constipation at this high dose. When I switched to iron carbonyl, there was almost no problem with constipation. Iron carbonyl also has far less potential for toxicity than other forms of iron, although iron toxicity rarely occurs and is somewhat exaggerated.

Again, it is best to work with your doctor and get a ferritin blood test to determine how much iron you might need and take another test a couple months after you are taking a specific dose consistently to check and see if that dose is working for you.

Low Ferritin
If you measure as having low low ferritin even though you are consuming what might seem to be enough dietary iron, iron absorption is between about 2% and 20% for non-meat food sources of iron and between about 3% and 10% percent for supplemental forms of iron. Absorption of these forms of iron can be reduced significantly by various dietary components [1,3,11-15].

Iron from meat, called "heme iron," absorbs between about 15% and 35% and is not affected by dietary components. [15]

Acidic foods improve iron absorption.Read about what helps and hinders iron absorption.

Click on the links below for a brief review of some medical journal studies that discuss an association with low ferritin levels and hair loss.

Studies by:
1. Trost
2. Rushton
3. Rushton
4. Rushton
5. Kantor

Update: In 2013 I found that I do not need to supplement with extra iron as my blood tests show that my ferritin is consistently at 70 ng/mL or above. It has stayed at this level without iron supplementation for several months now. I will continue to monitor it with blood tests and either supplement or not, as needed.

Researchers at Cleveland Clinic have noted iron's role in healthy hair, too. Read their press release below.

Low Iron Could Help Spur Baldness

WEDNESDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- Could iron deficiency be key to baldness?

The answer is yes, according to researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, who reviewed scientific literature on the connection published over the past 40 years.

"If doctors can understand fully the relationship between iron deficiency and hair loss, then they can help people regrow hair more effectively," study leader Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, head of clinical research in the department of dermatology, said in a prepared statement. "We believe that iron deficiency may be related to many forms of hair loss and that people may need higher levels of iron stores than previously thought to regrow hair."

The review of data suggests that iron deficiency may be linked to several of the most common kinds of hair loss. However, there is not enough evidence to suggest universal screening for iron deficiency in hair-loss patients and further research is required, the researchers said.

The findings appear in the May, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (Trost, et al. Volume 54, Issue 5 , Pages 824-844, May 2006)

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States. It can be caused by inadequate dietary intake of iron, excessive menstrual bleeding, and other forms of blood loss. Treatment includes adequate dietary intake of iron and, when appropriate, iron supplements.

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic routinely screen for iron deficiency in patients with hair loss. If iron deficiency is detected and treated in the early stages, patients may be able to grow hair more effectively, the researchers said.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Cleveland Clinic news release, May 15, 2006



For your viewing, I quote from Clinical Pearls One Liners, March 2003. Clinical Pearls is one of the periodicals I subscribe to for its evaluation of medical journal studies that focus on dietary supplements and complementary and alternative medicine.

From a review of a study by DH Rushton, MD.
Published in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 2002; volume 27, pages 396-404.

Iron, Lysine

Iron supplementation at 24 to 48 mg per day, which raises serum ferritin up to at least 70 mcg/l with the erythrocyte sedimentation rate being >10 mm/hour, plus 1½ to 2 grams of lysine daily have been shown to have a positive benefit in slowing hair loss. Using 1 to 2 mg per day of biotin may also be of benefit, along with essential fatty acids.

From Clinical Pearls One Liners, March 2003.
(I recommend subscribing. Phone: 916-483-1084.)

Studies by:

Jarrow Formulas Toco-Sorb (Tocomin SupraBio ® Tocotrienols)
Also sold as Toco-8, Super Absorbable Tocotrienols and Healthy Origins Tocomin SupraBio ® Tocotrienols

For More Hair Count

At this time, this might be the most potent effector of better hair count, meaning more healthy hairs. An eight-month human study showed that subjects taking Tocomin SupraBio ® Tocotrienols experienced better than 34 percent average improved hair count.

I started taking Toco-Sorb for the beneficial effects to blood lipids, such as reduced triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol and for a potential reduction in the risk of cancers, including prostate cancer.

I had no idea it would improve my hair count.

I and close friends noticed a definite increase in my own hair thickness after about five months. While I started out taking 3 capsules every morning, I am taking 4 or 5 capsules a day now.

The directions says to take one or two capsules per day, but I generally take more than "as directed" when the ingredient appears to be very safe and potentially very beneficial for an anti-aging antioxidant effect.

I take it first thing in the morning before taking all supplements that contain d-alpha tocopherol vitamin E, because higher potencies of the d-alpha tocopherol form of vitamin E can inhibit the absorption of tocotrienols.

See also: Ray Sahelian's essay on tocotrienols.

Why Tocotrienols Might Work
How tocotrienols might work to increase hair count involves oxidative stress, caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as super oxide, a tightly controlled inflammatory agent that the immune system deploys to kill invading microorganisms. A study by Naziroglu and Kokcam showed that there was an association between oxidative stress and hair loss.

As we age and/or because of long-term nutritional deficiences of zinc, copper or manganese, we make less superoxide dismutase (SOD), which control superoxide's potential to damage tissue, including damaging hair follicles.

As well, aging and nutritional deficiencies cause reduced production the body's antioxidants, such as glutathione peroxidase, an antioxidant enzyme, which also protects hair follicles from oxidative damage.

Tocotrienols are potent vitamin E antioxidants, up to 60 times more potent than the popular d-alpha tocopherol form of vitamin E. It appears that their antioxidant effects reduce inflammatory damage to hair follicles.

Darker Hair Too
Furthermore, after about 18 months of Toco-Sorb use there is no question my hair has darkened, especially on top. This is perhaps the result of the antioxidant effect of tocotrienols controlling the hair lightening (bleaching) effect of the body's production of hydrogen peroxide that can happen as we age. (See: Wood JM, et al. Senile hair graying: H2O2-mediated oxidative stress affects human hair color by blunting methionine sulfoxide repair. FASEB J. 2009 Jul;23(7):2065-75.

Nizoral Shampoo
I published a hypothesis in Muscle Media Magazine in 1996 that Nizoral (ketoconozole) shampoo could reduce several biochemical mechanisms that promote hair loss while improving hair quality. A few years later, several studies validated my hypothesis.

Therefore, shampooing with Nizoral should be considered. Only use it two or three times a week or you might get little red bumps on your scalp.

Update: March, 2015 - Darkening Grey Or White Hair
In the 1940's considerable attention was given to PABA (para-amino-benzoic acid) after doctor's noted that some patients taking it experienced darkening of their hair.

Summary and Recommendations
To summarize my suggestions for thicker, healthier hair, increased hair count and a potential darkening of grey hair, in order of what I think is most effective:
1. Get a ferritin blood test and take supplement iron if you need to get ferritin above 40 ng/mL with 70 ng/mL being more optimal. Whatever iron dose you and your doctor select, ask your doctor to re-test you every few months to find out if that dose brings your ferritin level up enough;
2. Take Jarrow Toco-Sorb or Toco-8 or Super Absorbable Tocotrienols or Healthy Origins Tocomin SupraBio - they are all made from the same raw tocotrienol materials under license from Carotech;
3. Use Nizoral shampoo two or three times a week;
4. Take 2,000 mcg of biotin a day;
5. Take 2,000 mg of lysine a day;
6. Consider taking a strong multivitamin/multimineral supplement, as all reactions in the body are nutrient dependent, so nutrient deficiencies can compromise any bodily function.

Michael Mooney

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is for educational purposes only, and is in no way a substitute for the advice of a qualified medical doctor, registered dietitian, certified nutritionist, or exercise physiologist. When you ask any health care professional to help you make decisions about your personal healthcare, I recommend that you show them the information you find here because they may not be aware of it and the scientific studies that support it. Appropriate medical therapy and the use of pharmaceutical or nutritional compounds should be tailored for the individual as no two individuals are alike. I do not recommend self-medicating with any compound as you should consult with a qualified medical doctor, preferably one who is knowledgeable about nutrition and complementary/functional medicine who can determine your individual situation. Any use of the information presented in this publication for personal medical therapy is done strictly at your own risk and no responsibility is implied or intended on the part of the contributing writers, or the publisher.