As winter rolls around many people start eyeing up nutritional supplements to boost their immune system in the hope of preventing colds.
Many of these products contain zinc, an essential trace element that plays a vital role in various biological functions but which cannot be generated by the body.
The reason it appears in many ‘immune support’ nutritional products is because zinc contributes to the normal function of the immune system. These are often marketed as ‘helping to fight infection’; this is because it has also been shown, in systematic reviews of clinical studies, that zinc can shorten the duration of a cold.
Zinc also has a number of other health benefits, as, not only does it contribute to the maintenance of normal vision and normal cognitive function, but it can support the maintenance of normal skin, hair and nail health.
The role of zinc in hair growth and hair loss
When Belgravia hair experts developed the formulation for Hair Vitalics food supplements, both for Men and for Women, zinc was one of the first ingredients to be included. There are three key reasons for this…
Firstly, zinc is known to help support the maintenance of normal healthy hair growth, making it something of a no-brainer to include in a highly-targeted hair supplement.
Secondly, zinc also has a role in the process of cell division and contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to premature hair loss in at least two clinical studies.
Thirdly, zinc deficiency can contribute to hair loss so it is important for people to ensure they consume a healthy amount every day. Some people may not be able to absorb zinc properly and, in these cases, a GP should be consulted as the underlying reason will need to be established so that appropriate treatment can be decided upon.
Recently, it has also been shown in clinical trials that men with Male Pattern Baldness may benefit from zinc and biotin.Whilst women with Female Pattern Hair Loss were shown to have lower levels of zinc and iron. Both biotin – another well-known hair vitamin – and iron are also included in both Hair Vitalics formulations.
Daily recommendations for zinc
The NHS advises that the recommended daily intake of zinc is 5.5–9.5mg a day for men, and 4–7mg a day for women.*
The UK Food Standards Agency and Department of Health recommends not consuming more than 25mg of zinc per day, as “too much may cause anaemia and weakening of the bones”. *
Therefore, when taking zinc supplements, or other nutritional support products containing zinc, such as multivitamins or hair supplements, it is important to ensure your intake, including zinc obtained through your diet, meets this criteria.
Causes of zinc deficiency
Zinc must be supplied through the diet. It can easily be obtained from a number of dietary sources, including meat, seafood, legumes (chick peas, lentils and even baked beans), seeds and nuts.
Oysters are considered the most zinc-rich food stuff for meat-eaters and pescatarians, whilst sun-dried tomatoes and pumpkin seeds are among the best natural vegetarian and vegan sources of zinc.
In addition to those not getting enough zinc through their diets because of an unbalanced diet, deficiency can also occur for various other reasons.
Zinc deficiency is often seen in people “consuming large amounts of cereal grain (which contains a phytate considered to be chelating agent of zinc), in those with poor meat consumption or TPN [Total Parenteral Nutrition], and in infants on milk formula. Other causes of zinc deficiency include anorexia nervosa (secondary to inadequate intake, increased zinc excretion, and malabsorption due to laxative abuse), inflammatory bowel disease, jejunal bypass surgery, and cystic fibrosis. Alcoholism, malignancy, burns, infection, and pregnancy may all cause increased metabolism and excretion of zinc,” according to research published in the Dermatology & Therapy journal in March 2019 (source: doi: 10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6).
Those with eczema or seborrheic dermatitis may find their conditions worsen as a result of zinc deficiency. It can also make wound-healing slower.
If you are concerned about a potential zinc deficiency, it is best to contact your GP as they should be able to refer you for the appropriate blood tests, urine tests and/or hair strand analysis.
Thinning hair and excessive hair fall which presents as a result of zinc deficiency is known as Telogen Effluvium. It is a temporary form of hairloss which tends to become obvious around three months after being triggered.
It causes up to 30-40 per cent of all scalp hair to shed, so may be alarming, but normal hair regrowth should resume with six months, though treatment to accelerate this process may be helpful.
For those worried about sudden or unusual levels of shedding, consulting a professional hair loss specialist may be both informative and a huge relief. They will be able to identify the cause of the thinning and explain both why it is happening and what can be done to encourage hair growth, as well as providing personalised recommendations for hair loss treatments and hair growth supporting products, where appropriate.
* Information correct at time of writing: November 2019 (Source: NHS.uk)
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. 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 world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.