Can a few gray hairs or a full head of silver reveal something about your health? Here’s what the latest studies say on the subject.
Very often, the appearance of white hair is more of an aesthetic concern than a health issue for those who discover them. However, it seemed interesting to us to ask ourselves the question: can this depigmented hair also be a sign of a deficiency or illness? Here is what we know today based on studies.
Why do our hair turn white?
Above all, if we are not equal when it comes to the whitening of our hair (some go gray as adults, others have dark hair until old age), it is a fact: hair turns white with age. ‘age. This process, called “canities,” occurs when melanocytes, the cells responsible for hair color, stop secreting melanin. Our hair is still growing, without problem, but without any pigmentation. We can’t do anything about it, it’s a natural physical event, the appearance of which varies depending on genetics.
Too much stress?
Hormones produced in response to stress may also deplete melanocyte stem cells, which determine hair color, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Nature Medicine. This causes your hair to turn gray or white. The legend according to which a lot of stress could turn your hair white is therefore possible.
A vitamin deficiency?
Eating a balanced diet is good for your health, but also for hair health. Consequently, deficiencies would instead be responsible for poor hair quality. Thus, Dr. Karthik Krishnamurthy, director of the dermatology department at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York, announced in 2019 in a speech that vitamin B12 deficiencies were considered factors in hair whitening. “Low levels of vitamin B12 can lead to decreased pigmentation. she explained.
However, according to Sébastien Barbarot, dermatologist at Nantes University Hospital, interviewed by Ouest Europe in 2019, this is rarely the reason for our white hair, at least in Europe, because a very pronounced deficiency was required: “This occurs in cases of malnutrition or very unbalanced diet, which is rare in Western countries”.
Another study dating from 2017 and published by the European Society of Cardiology, an organization of cardiology professionals around the world, linked gray hair in men and the risk of developing atherosclerosis (whatever). or their age), a disease that affects the arteries. And participants who already had atherosclerosis were more likely to have gray hair.
“Aging is an unavoidable cardiovascular risk factor and is associated with dermatological signs that may signal an increased risk of heart disease,” explained one of the authors of this study, Dr Irini Samuel, cardiologist at Cairo University.
However, the demonstration had a limit, since white hair or not, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases with aging. Further studies on the subject would therefore be necessary to confirm this link.
An autoimmune disease?
On the other hand, yes, in certain cases, white hair, or even a beard bleached in places can be a sign of an autoimmune disease, vitiligo, as contracted by former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. If vitiligo is mainly characterized by the appearance of white spots on the skin, depigmentation can also affect the hair or facial hair.
This is also the case in alopecia areata, a dysregulation of the immune system which causes hair loss in patches. However, when the hair grows back it happens that it is completely white.