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How Vitamin E Can Have a Beneficial Effect on Your Hair
Vitamin E is an essential fat-soluble vitamin. It is a combined term for eight compounds alpha, beta, gamma and delta-tocopherols and tocotrienols that show similar activity (1).
Alpha-and gamma-tocopherols are the two main forms of vitamin E. Among the eight compounds only the alpha-tocopherol form of the vitamin is maintained in human plasma. Vitamin E is a very potent antioxidant and is demonstrated to have several health benefits.
Hair loss or alopecia is a very common problem faced by both men and women. People who lose hair undergo a lot of psychological and emotional stress because their self-esteem takes a beating (2). In most cases why the hair loss occurs is not known but one of the main reasons could be nutrient deficiencies.
Antioxidant activity of vitamin E
Tocotrienol belongs to vitamin E family and exhibits a strong antioxidant activity. A trial showed that supplementation with tocotrienol capsules increased hair number in volunteers facing hair loss problem (2). Supplementation for 8 months with 50 mg of mixed tocotrienols and 23 IU of α-tocopherol increased hair count by 34.5%.
This effect was attributed to the antioxidant activity of tocotrienols which reduced the lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress in the scalp. These two factors have earlier been reported to be linked to hair loss (2).
Many vitamins and minerals play an important role in hair cycle and also the immune system mechanisms.
Alopecia areata (AA) is loss of hair when the immune system attacks the hair follicle. In patients with AA it was observed in a review of research, that there is an imbalance between oxidant and antioxidant status. The oxidative stress is more and the antioxidant levels are low. AA is caused because of autoimmunity, genetic predisposition and emotional and environmental stress (3).
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and can help in improving the antioxidant status and there by help in preventing hair loss.
Recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin E
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin E is 15 milligrams (or 22.4 International Units, or IU) for adults and lactating women need a little more that is 19 mg (28.4 IU) (1).
Food sources of vitamin E
Vitamin E is found in many foods. RRR- alpha-tocopherol is the only form maintained in plasma and is found very commonly in all the natural foods we consume daily (4). The common foods that contain vitamin E are
- dark green leafy vegetables
- vegetable oils
- peanut butter
- sunflower seeds
- fortified breakfast cereals, fruit juices, margarine, and spreads (5)
The amount of vitamin E in the foods varies because several factors affect its stability. Vitamin E compounds are viscous oils and they are stable to heat and acids. These compounds become unstable in the presence of alkali, ultraviolet light and oxygen (6). Loss of vitamin E may occur during processing, cooking and storage to a certain extent.
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant. Because of the antioxidant property it reduces oxidative stress which is one of the reasons for hair loss. Make sure you take sufficient vitamin E food sources to meet RDA for vitamin E. If necessary get your doctor to prescribe vitamin supplements to increase your antioxidant status.
- Wildman, R. (2009) The Nutritionist-Food, Nutrition, and Optimal Health. Vitamins are vital molecules in food 191. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. Second Edition. New York and London.
- Beoy, L. A., Woei, W. J. and Hay, Y. K. (2010) Effects of tocotrienol supplementation on hair growth in human volunteers, Tropical life sciences research. Vol. 21 (2).
- Almohanna, H. M., Ahmed, A. A., Tsatalis, J. P. and Tosti, A. (2019) The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review, Dermatology and therapy. Vol. 9 (1).
- Rizvi, S., Raza, S. T., Ahmed, F., Ahmad, A., Abbas, S. and Mahdi, F. (2014) The Role of Vitamin E in Human Health and Some Diseases, Sultan Qaboos University medical journal. Vol. 14(2).
- Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids (2000) A Report of the Panel on Dietary Antioxidants and Related Compounds, Subcommittees on Upper Reference Levels of Nutrients and Interpretation and Uses of Dietary Reference Intakes, and the Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. Vitamin E 186. National Academy press.
- Yeung, D. and Laquarta, I. (2003) Heinz Handbook of Nutrition, Ninth Edition. Distributed by H.J. Heinz Company.