What is Zinc's role in hair loss?
Zinc has an extremely important role in the body and is involved in the action of at least 300 enzymes. The adult body contains 2-3 grams of Zinc, with the highest concentration being in the prostate, semen and sperm retinas, pancreas and kidneys. Bones and muscles contain about 63 percent of the body’s Zinc with a further 20 percent being contained in skin tissue. There is also some in the hair follicles, but when Zinc is not plentiful, the body takes it from the hair to use in other more important bodily processes and as a result, hair growth suffers or stops completely.
Low zinc levels are linked with low testosterone levels. DHT levels rise when zinc is low. DHT is known to be involved in male pattern baldness, so the cheapest form of DHT inhibitor must surely be Zinc.
Zinc has good antioxidant properties thus helping the body to rid itself of naturally occurring free radicals and environmental toxins such as, cadmium, and cigarette smoke and air pollution. The body uses Zinc for insulin activity, growth and development of the skeleton and nervous system, maintaining healthy Liver function. Also releases Vitamin A from the Liver.
The typical daily intake of Zinc in the Western world averages around 10mg which equates to two thirds of the RDA. Low zinc intake is usually observed in the elderly, alcoholics, people with anorexia, and individuals on restrictive weight loss diets. Zinc deficiency may also be caused by diseases that interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food, such as Irritable Bowel disease, Celiac disease, and chronic diahoria.
One should take in the region of 15-50mgs per day. Yet lifestyle will effect how much zinc we use. Stress, alcohol, tea, coffee consumption and our diet also has an effect on our requirements. A single ejaculation has been estimated to contain about 15mgs of zinc, so it follows that calculating your own optimum zinc levels will depend on what else is going on in your diet and life!
For example a diet high in protein which is common at present, needs higher Zinc levels as the enzyme required for producing stomach acid is Zinc dependant. Bran and brown bread for example that we have been told are healthy for us contain a substance called Phytic Acid that can combine with Zinc to block its absorption. Good food sources are oysters, liver, dried brewers yeast and shell fish. Brewers yeast is an inexpensive way of getting your B vitamins too.
Also note that Zinc can oppose Copper absorption so if you take too much Zinc in relation to your Copper intake a Copper deficiency can soon come about. Copper is essential for the formation of haemoglobin and is needed to carry oxygen in red blood cells. Haemoglobin is necessary for the maintenance of an adequate supply of blood to the hair shaft. A deficiency of copper can weaken the hair shaft and cause increased hair shedding. A deficiency rarely comes from not getting enough copper in the diet; instead, it usually comes from genetic problems or from too much zinc in the diet. The reference daily intake of copper is 2 milligrams for the average adult. The best sources of copper include: organ meats especially liver - seafood, seeds and nuts.Note by paying attention to the food groups that are high in both copper and zinc, liver for example, you can be picking up good levels of both in your diet.
In summary, look at your diet and see what your current intake is and what you are likely to be blocking via Phytic acid. If you are young and going through a growth spurt you will be using up large volumes of Zinc, if you are sexually active your body will also be using more. Reducing alcohol, tea and coffee, will stop you wasting your valuable resources, as will not overloading your diet with too much protein.
Zinc Picolinate, which many health food stores stock, (picolinate is the carrier molecule that transports Zinc across the gut) is easily absorbable. However some people find that this form (Picolinate) makes them feel a little sick!
Zinc is mainly lost from the body via excretion of faeces though a small amount is lost in urine, this is particularly true if drugs such as H.R.T, Cyclosporin, or if Diuretics are used. Other excessive losses are sustained through alcoholism and kidney or liver disease.
On average, 20 percent of Zinc is absorbed from food with best absorption being from meat and fish sources rather than fruit and vegetables. Food sources which contain the highest concentration by weight are; Oysters, Liver, Hard Cheese, Eggs, Wholegrain cereals and Bread, Greenleaf vegetables and various similar food stuffs. Zinc content of food is drastically lost through refining processes such production of white flour from wholemeal which lowers Zinc content by as much as 77 percent, whilst a diet with high fibre content will limit the body’s ability to absorb Zinc, as will excessive consumption of processed foods.
Zinc deficiency identifies itself by way of hair loss, white spots on fingernails, loss of sense of taste and smell, loss of mental apathy, increased susceptibility to infections and defects in reproductive organs of both men and women.
The effects of excess Zinc intake are apparent through mild gastric irritation and vomiting. High doses of Zinc are known to reduce the HDL (good Cholesterol) and raise the LDL (bad Cholesterol