Our hair is a prominent part of our physical appearance and, for many people, is seen as an important part of their identity. This week’s Nutrition News covers a number of recently published studies and articles in the nutrition category, including what vitamins you need to be including to support the health of your hair. Read more here.

The best vitamins for hair health

For many people, their hair health is one of the most important things to them of their appearance. Losing strands can be distressing, and while daily hair shedding is normal, persistent hair loss may signal underlying issues. Medical conditions, stress, and vitamin deficiencies are among the common culprits affecting hair health, which are explored in the recently published article “Best Vitamins for Hair Growth”.

Once you've consulted with a healthcare professional to identify the root cause of your hair loss, a crucial step in promoting healthy hair involves evaluating your diet.

Vitamins play a pivotal role in various aspects of hair health, from promoting cell growth to preventing premature greying. Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, stimulates keratin production and can be sourced from foods including eggs, meat, and nuts. Vitamin A supports the growth of hair cells and can be obtained from beta-carotene-rich foods such as sweet potatoes and spinach. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, helps counteract oxidative stress, with sources including citrus fruits and strawberries.

Vitamin D deficiencies can result in conditions such as alopecia, according to research on alopecia, and sources include fatty fish and sunlight exposure. Vitamin E, with antioxidant properties akin to vitamin C, aids in reducing oxidative stress and can be found in sunflower seeds and avocados. Iron, crucial for haemoglobin production, is abundant in eggs and red meat, while zinc, promoting hair growth, is found in beef and pumpkin seeds.

It's important to note that supplementation or adding certain vitamins and minerals to your diet takes time to show results, and success depends on various factors, including the cause of hair loss and genetic factors. While vitamins can play a role in restoring and maintaining healthy hair, consulting with a healthcare professional is essential to address the root cause of significant hair loss and devise a personalised plan.

Study shows how Mediterranean and MIND diets support cognitive health

In a novel study focusing on middle-aged females, the potential cognitive health benefits of adhering to either a Mediterranean or a MIND diet have been explored. The investigation, reported in the article “How Mediterranean and MIND diets could improve cognitive health” involved genetically identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic) twins. The findings revealed that among monozygotic twin pairs, the twin with higher adherence to either diet exhibited slightly stronger episodic and visuospatial working memory, with significant results for those following the Mediterranean diet.

The research, conducted on 509 female twins from the UK Adult Twin Registry, analysed data collected between 1992 and 2004. Approximately 34% were monozygotic, and 66% were dizygotic. Dietary information was obtained through questionnaires, and cognitive tests were administered approximately 10 years later. A follow-up included the analysis of participants' faecal samples.

Higher adherence to the MIND diet was associated with an increased abundance of the bacteria Ruminococcaceae and short-chain fatty acids. However, this association lost significance after adjusting for dietary fibre intake.

The study stands out by focusing on female twins, offering unique insights into the interplay between diet and cognitive health. Michelle Routhenstein, a registered dietitian nutritionist, highlighted the study's depth in exploring the potential advantages associated with these diets, particularly in midlife, considering shared genetics and early life experiences.

Dr. Thomas Holland emphasised the study's significance, indicating that dietary habits in midlife can significantly impact cognitive health, challenging the assumption that such habits only benefit later in life. The study suggests the potential to enhance cognitive resilience and build cognitive reserve during midlife, potentially extending these benefits into older age.

Episodic memory, utilising personal experiences for learning, and visuospatial memory, recognising objects and their spatial locations, were measured in the study. These cognitive functions are considered crucial indicators of cognitive health, contributing to global cognition. Both the Mediterranean and MIND diets, known for their anti-inflammatory properties, were linked to strong cognitive reserve, potentially through mechanisms involving Ruminococcaceae and short-chain fatty acids.

However, the experts emphasise that maintaining brain health involves a comprehensive approach beyond dietary habits. It is also worth noting that this study relied on subject inputted data, and further research would be needed to establish a clear link between such dietary patterns and supported cognitive health. Factors such as engaging in physical activity, cultivating an active social circle, participating in mentally stimulating activities, sleep support, and stress management techniques are crucial for preserving cognitive health as individuals age.

Vitamin B3 linked with liver support

The prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has surged in recent years, reaching an estimated 32.4% globally and a staggering 47.8% in the United States. NAFLD begins slowly with the accumulation of fat in the liver, but as it progresses, this fat buildup can inflict damage on the vital organ, which is responsible for blood filtration and crucial metabolic functions. Complications include fibrosis, the development of scar tissue, and the potential onset of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), marked by liver inflammation.

A recent extensive study, reported by Medical News Today in the article “Dietary vitamin B3 may help lower death risk in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease” conducted by researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, delved into the impact of niacin (vitamin B3) intake on mortality among individuals with NAFLD. Analysing data from 4,315 adults with NAFLD gathered over 2003–2018 through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the study revealed intriguing findings. The study found that a total of 566 deaths were recorded during the period and a concerning 197 of those were attributed to cardiovascular disease. However, participants with the highest daily niacin consumption (over 26.7 mg) exhibited a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease-related death and a 35% lower risk of all-cause mortality compared to those with lower niacin intake (18.4 mg or less).

The study underscored the potential benefits of a daily niacin intake of 20 mg for individuals with NAFLD.

Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is converted to nicotinamide (niacinamide) and is then converted in the body to NAD. The vitamin plays a crucial role in energy support, cholesterol and fat synthesis, DNA replication, and repair pathways, showcasing its multifaceted importance. While deficiencies in this vitamin are rare due to its presence in various foods like meat, fish, brown rice, bananas, and fortified foods, the study suggests that optimal niacin levels could be beneficial for managing NAFLD.

The link between obesity and NAFLD highlights the complex interactions of metabolic processes, explaining the disease's association with insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and cardiometabolic risk factors. Considering the impact of obesity on vitamin levels, individuals with obesity may require higher vitamin intake due to increased oxidative stress, inflammation, and potential nutrient deficiencies. This comprehensive understanding emphasises the critical role of nutrition in managing obesity-related conditions like NAFLD.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.