Why so grey? - NL-013
After the age of 30, there is a possibility that your hair will begin to grey 10% to 20% with each decade that passes. It is a reality that, eventually, nearly all people will have grey hair.
The various shades of human hair are caused by a pigment called melanin. This pigment can be dark (eumelanin) or light (pheomelanin) and the combination of the two is what determines the colour of the hair.
In youth, melanocytes, which are pigment-producing stem cells, deposit pigment into the keratin-filled cells. This keratin, a protein, is the underpinning of hair and gives it color. With age, the melanin diminishes, resulting in gray hair, and eventually, no color at all (no melanin).
Recently, a global group of scientists has unveiled the initial gene associated with grey hair in a breakthrough that has solved the mystery of why melanin is reduced and hair turns grey.
Investigations found that a gene related to blonde hair in Europeans was also associated with grey hair and was responsible for around 30% of the greying of hair among the participants of the research.
Approximately 70% of grey hair is attributed to a variety of causes, such as age, environment, stress, and diet. Consequently, researchers are trying to find a way to regulate the genetic pathway so as to prevent hair from greying, though this could involve the taking of drugs – not a good idea at all! It was found that this gene was responsible for approximately 30% of the greying of hair among the subjects in the research.
Could It Be Possible That Hair Has Its Own Type of 'Biological lock'?
It appears that each individual's hair follicles may have a "melanogenetic clock" that regulates them. This clock will affect the melanocyte cells at varying rates for different individuals, with some people seeing a decrease in activity quickly, and others taking several decades for it to happen.
It is commonly accepted that Caucasians can begin to experience a significant amount of grey hair in their mid-thirties, with Asians seeing the same results typically at the end of their 30s. African Americans, on the other hand, may not experience grey hair until their mid-forties.
What Else could Causes Gray Hair?
Other factors include:
- Many people are familiar with using hydrogen peroxide to lighten their hair; however, they may not be aware that their hair cells create hydrogen peroxide as well. As individuals age, the amount produced increases, which scientists theorize is the cause for the bleaching of hair pigment, causing it to turn gray and eventually white.
- An association between smoking and hair greying has been found. Cigarettes have been attributed to early graying, with the onset of grey locks occurring before the age of 30.
- Oxidative stress can be described as a situation in which free radicals (from air pollution, an unhealthy diet, stress, etc.) outnumber the antioxidants from a nutritious diet. It has been suggested that grey hair may be a sign of oxidative stress-caused harm. Additionally, studies have indicated that people with premature greying had higher concentrations of pro-oxidants and reduced levels of antioxidants when compared to those with regular hair.
- There is evidence suggesting that a lack of Vitamin B12 may lead to premature greying of the hair, and in one instance, the pigmentation of the hair returned after the deficiency was rectified.
Could Gray Hair that Appears Early be a Sign of Health Issues?
It has been suggested that premature grey hair is mainly attributed to genetics; if your relatives experienced it early, then it's possible that you may as well.
Furthermore, obesity could be linked to premature greying, and there is some speculation that it may be an indication of certain health conditions. For example, early greying might be a crucial warning sign for the bone disorder osteopenia.
Investigations presented in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism revealed that individuals with premature graying but no other risk factors were four-and-a-half times more likely to have osteopenia than people without premature graying.
It has been suggested that premature greying may be related to thyroid issues, anaemia and vitiligo, and that it could increase the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) in younger people who smoke.
Is Stress A Culprit For Gray Hair?
It is widely accepted that stress is responsible for causing grey hairs (and many parents of teenagers would likely agree).
Research into this field has been scant, apart from the work done by Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, Nobel Prize winner, which was published in the Nature journal in 2011.
A research study discovered that long-term tension and the frequent triggering of the "fight or flight" stress response can cause DNA harm, which can not only hasten ageing, increase the risk of cancer, raise the possibility of neuropsychiatric conditions, and bring about miscarriages, but also influence genes responsible for hair pigment.
Looking for a solution to grey hair implies that it is a problem that needs to be solved. However, having grey hair is not necessarily a negative thing. From a health standpoint, it is much preferable to embrace grey hair rather than to use harmful hair dyes.