Our hair color comes from a pigment called melanin. With age, melanin is reduced which is why our hair turns gray and ultimately, white once there’s no melanin left.
In 2016, researchers discovered a gene that accounts for 30% of hair graying. The research study involved 6000 people living in five Latin American countries. They looked into these populations because they represent a good mix of backgrounds. Kaustubh Adhikari, a research associate in cell and developmental biology at University College London, was the lead author of the study.
The other 70% is likely due to factors such as age, toxic exposures, nutritional deficiencies and stress.
To limit gray hair:
- Avoid smoking: There is a significant association between tobacco use and graying of hair.
- Minimize oxidative stress by avoiding pollution and stress: Oxidative stress may be defined as a state in which our free radicals (from pollution, poor diet, stress) outnumber our antioxidant defenses (from healthy diet). Graying hair may be an indicator of oxidative stress-induced damage.
- Eat a healthy antioxidant rich diet: The following are rich in antioxidants: Goji berries, wild blueberries, dark chocolate, pecans, artichoke, elderberries, kidney beans, cranberries, balckberries, cilantro.
- Increase vitamin B12 intake: Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with graying of hair. The following are rich in vitamin B12: Shellfish, liver, fish, crab, fortified soy products (tofu, soymilk), fortified cereals, red meat, low fat dairy, cheese and eggs.
- Normalize weight: Obesity is associated with graying of hair.