Nuts have long been recommended as a healthy nibble, though scientists often struggle to explain why they may help stave off heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. A new report, however, suggests that it may be nuts’ anti-inflammatory properties to thank – meaning nuts may quickly find favour with people who have Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune disorder which leads to sudden hair loss.
This is because multiple anecdotal reports suggest that Alopecia Areata and inflammation are inextricably linked. As America’s National Centre for Biotechnology Information puts it: Alopecia Areata may be caused by an “inflammatory response that can interact with the hair follicle and produce a collapse of its immune privilege.”
The report that has hit the headlines was first published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and is based on discoveries made by the Harvard Medical School in Boston. The findings suggest that eating a handful of nuts five times a week may reduce inflammation.
Dr. Ying Bao, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told Reuters Health that nuts may have been exerting the health benefits that have been seen by dieticians over the past few decades precisely because of this inflammation-reducing effect.
Gathering data from more than 5,000 people spanning almost 30 years, the Harvard team found that people who had been eating nuts at least five times a week had 20 percent lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) than people who rarely or never ate nuts. Reuters reports that they also had “16 percent lower levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), another inflammatory marker.”
Interestingly, interleukins’ part in Alopecia Areata is being explored in several studies.
Doctors widely accept that inflammation can lead to heart disease and strokes, as well as kidney and bowel disease and other medical problems. All of which means making a handful of nuts a part of your daily diet seem like a good idea. But could they really help stave off Alopecia-related hair loss?
A 2013 study by the Department of Dermatology at the University of British Colombia in Canada noted an interesting connection between inflammation and Alopecia Areata. It stated, “With the aid of several AA animal models, indirect, functional evidence has been produced to show that the immune system dominates in determining the expression of AA-like hair loss… If there is no functional immune system/inflammation, there is no AA-like hair loss in these models.”
Therefore, as Alopecia Areata is classed as an autoimmune disorder which produces an inflammatory response, the notion that relief may come through upping your intake of anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding foods that are known to be inflammatory appears to make sense. As far as we are aware this dietary aspect has not yet been clinically tested or investigated.
Nonetheless, some people do claim to have seen improvement in their condition by choosing foods known for reducing inflammation: paleo and gluten-free diets are commonly hailed as good diets for people with Alopecia Areata. Avoiding gluten means less risk of inflammation of the small intestine – but as we previously reported, there could be another way of looking at the story.
Could it actually be that zinc plays a significant part in what’s going on? Zinc, which is important for healthy hair growth, is often not properly absorbed by people who eat cereals: ie, people who are not on a gluten-free diet. Might it therefore be the fact that zinc absorption is increased – rather than inflammation is reduced – that lies behind anecdotal evidence that a gluten-free diet can help people with Alopecia Areata? Might both play a part?
One thing is certain – a healthy diet is always a good idea if you want to keep your hair in good condition. While sensible eating may not stop hair loss in its own right, it can certainly keep the body topped up with vitamins and nutrients and give hair the best chance of staying in good shape.
Should sudden, patchy hair loss strike, the smart thing to do is to see a hair loss specialist as soon as possible. They can provide a swift professional diagnosis as to the condition, and regrowth support. At Belgravia our approach to alopecia areata treatment involves topical applications of appropriate formulations of high strength minoxidil. These are applied directly to the scalp to promote hair growth and have produced significant results for many clients, some of whom can be seen in our Alopecia Areata Treatment Success Stories.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.