A connection between a lack of omega fatty acids and hair loss has often been suggested by experts, but new research adds significant weight to the idea that what you eat really can affect your hair growth.
A study published in the March issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that the supplementation of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, plus antioxidants, prevented hair loss in the women tested and improved the thickness of their hair.
Unlike many studies referred to in connection with hair loss – that either turn out to be non-existent, unscientific, or so small in scope as to be negligible - this research may warrant a little more attention!
The study took place over a six-month period, during which time 120 women aged from 18 to 65, suffering from hair loss – but otherwise healthy – were evaluated.
The women were all suffering from female pattern hair loss, which tends to cause thin hair overall, but particularly around the crown and at the front of the scalp.
Women experiencing hair loss that could have had another cause – a vitamin deficiency, for example, or a medical condition known to cause hair loss – were excluded from this research.
This was to ensure as thoroughly as possible that – after the supplements were given – any resulting changes to their hair could be reasonably attributed to the effects of those supplements, rather than to any other factor (such as some other condition simply improving with time).
Experts already know that there is a strong link between hair loss and nutrition. The report's authors supported this by noting how hair problems are observed in sufferers of nutritionally related conditions, such as anorexia and bulimia.
They also noted, however, that whilst lots of products containing vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are strongly promoted for preventing/stopping hair loss, the role of nutrition – and particularly nutritional supplements – and its effects on female pattern hair loss has not been extensively studied and little data is available.
So this study set out to see how effective a nutrition supplement combining specific omega-3 and 6 from fish and blackcurrant seed oils, along with antioxidants (vitamins C and E and lycopenes), would be in improving hair loss, hair volume, softness and shine.
The women were divided into two groups, one of 80 and one of 40. Both groups were equally divided between women of an age prior to menopause and women who had already been through menopause.
The group of 80 women were given a daily supplement containing 460 mg fish oil, 460 mg blackcurrant seed oil, 5 mg vitamin E, 30 mg vitamin C and 1mg lycopene for 6 months.
The other group (called the 'control' group) were given no supplements.
To ensure that any results could be fairly attributed to the supplements, all the women who took part in the study were asked not to alter their diets or their hair styles until the research was over. They were also asked not to use any hair loss treatments.
Thorough evaluation procedures showed a "statistically significant difference" between the 2 groups, with a photographic review revealing an impressive 62% of the women who'd received the supplement showing an increase in the hair's density, compared to only 28.2% of the subjects in the control group.
Of this 28.2%, only a 'slight increase' was observed, but for the supplemented group, 32.9% were observed to have a slight increase, 27.8% a moderate increase and in 1.3% of the cases their hair density was 'greatly increased'.
The women themselves graded the improvement of their hair density from the photographs – 88.6% of the women who received the supplement saw an increase in their hair density, with 13.9% reporting a slight increase, 45.6% reporting a moderate increase and 29.1% reporting a large increase.
What's more, after 6 months...
In total, 92.4% of the women who'd received the supplement were satisfied with it and none had experienced any serious adverse side-effects.
The fish oil used in this study contains lots of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and the blackcurrant seed oil contains the 'optimal dietary balance' of omega-6 and omega-3 acids.
Previous studies had demonstrated that the PUFAs is in both these oils are very readily absorbed by the skin's cells, and provide a host of benefits.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids…
The antioxidants in this study – vitamins C, E and lycopene, have similar positive effects… all of which support a healthy scalp and – subsequently – healthy hair.
The report's authors did note that the study did not allow them to know just how much each particular ingredient was key to the end result (i.e. whether the positive results were mostly due to the fish oil, the blackcurrant oil or the antioxidants).
But they felt that the supplement simply combines the benefits of each and every ingredient, giving positive results overall.
It's also a good idea to eat foods rich in omega fatty acids, such as oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines etc), flaxseeds (linseeds), walnuts and poultry.
But please do check with your doctor before including ANY supplements in your daily routine, in case there's a particular reason they may not be appropriate for you (especially if pregnant/nursing).
Blackcurrant seed oil, for example, can lower the blood pressure and slow blood clotting.
You may not be able to get the antioxidants in the small doses used in the study. Although larger doses should not be detrimental to the results, you may want to seek your doctors go-ahead first.