How your hair can help save your life

I saw this in a group and thought it was definitely worth pubbing on here.

by Tammy Barbour, 2012

Heart Attacks, Gray Hair & Vitamin D in African Americans


Did you know that plaque on your arteries and grey hair are related?  If you are graying prematurely, have brittle or thinning hair, if you have ever dyed your hair, or if you have heart disease, this article may not only help you grow healthier hair, it could save your life. 


We all hear how certain herbs, vitamins & minerals can do miracles; how ginkgo helps our memory, how raspberry ketones help us lose weight.  Then we hear reports that these nutrients are ineffective.  Which is true? Why does one friend swear by a supplement, but it doesn’t work for you?  This article explains how nutrients work together in the body.  I will discuss how a group of nutrients (Vitamin D, Cysteine, Methionine, Tyrosinase, Vitamin E), keep color in our hair, and how a deficiency of these nutrients can result in heart disease & other diseases.


First, a little technical info.  Two amino acids, Cysteine & Methionine are important to cell function processes for our entire body.  Hair is made up of about 15% Cysteine & both amino acids improve hair texture and aid growth. Scientists have long verified thatoxidation of methionine causes grey hair.  If you have heard of free radicals, these are the toxins that age our body. The oxidation in hair is caused by microscopic amounts of naturally occuring hydrogen peroxide which accumulates in our body.


In healthy follicle cells, a natural enzyme called Catalase keeps hydrogen peroxide levels low. Our thyroid produces hormones which stimulates an enzyme called tyrosinase.  Tyrosinase produces melanin which gives our hair its color. Stress, ageing and poor nutrition cause us to accumulating more hydrogen peroxide than Catalase.  This leads to methionine oxidation which inhibits the melanin producing enzyme.  The follicle starts producing gray hair.


Think of a tiny bottle of hydrogen peroxide sitting in your follicle bleaching hair as it grows.


This is how free radicals and toxins break down amino acids which repair and grow healthy cells. Oxidation not only damages hair follicles, but interferes with cell processes throughout the body.  Hair is mostly protein, made of chains of amino acids. When we are nutrient deficient, the body must use the vitamins and minerals we consume for other bodily needs first.  Methionine oxidation also contributes to vitaligo in the skin, and is particularly important for healthy liver functions also.  If we lack methionine, it will not be distributed to hair follicles.


Some hair companies advertise that methionine has been added to the shampoo.  Vitamin companies also make a methionine supplement.  More methionine should mean darker hair, right?


One Stop Solutions

Adding a small amount of methionine to a shampoo to use for a few minutes before rinsing it away, if it works at all, could only work to the extent one uses the product.  Our body sloths off new cells on a daily basis.  Most African American women don’t shampoo daily, so this method may be less effective for ethnic hair. 

For health, many nutrients must work together. Therefore, whether you add one vitamin, like Biotin, or Methionine etc. to a shampoo, or take a pill, does not mean you get ENOUGH for YOUR body, or THAT YOUR BODY IS ABLE TO USE IT.  


Its like putting the bolt from one wheel in your driveway and expecting it to drive like a car.  A car needs many pieces, but one of the components we think of as most important is the engine.  The engine for methionine, and other proteins is Vitamin D.


Nearly 82 percent of African-Americans are vitamin D deficient. * If you don’t have a sufficient amount of Vitamin D in your body, methionine can’t function. Vitamin D gives methionine the “push”

it needs.  Vitamin D sources include sunlight and milk, among others.  Think about going out in the sun in the summer.  What happens? You get a suntan.  You become darker.  Vitamin D, helps methionine in your hair as well. 


I want to note that, when you buy some hydrogen peroxide, apply it to your hair, and go out into the sun, the peroxide stops the sun from darkening your hair.  The same thing happens INSIDE your body.  The toxins which have accumulated sit inside the follicle like a bottle of peroxide bleaching your hair, which is why it turns gray. Adding more methionine, without the Vitamin D to activate it, or with too many toxins to deactivate it, does little good. One stop solutions, like taking a thousand milligrams of biotin, without any clue of what your body is missing in particular, may not be as effective as you hope.


Beyond Hair & Bones: Why We Need Vitamin D

Vitamin D is more important than many of us realize.  Most people know that overexposure to the sun leads to painful blisters, premature aging, wrinkles and skin cancer.  Methionine without Vitamin D, creates blotchy skin and gray hair.  Working together, Vitamin D and methionine help build strong hair, nails, bones and teeth.   Vitamin D deficiency is a real problem in our community for the functioning of our organs as well. 


Vitamin D Deficiency Contributes to Many Diseases.

Not only do many black people shun the sun, African Americans more likely to be lactose intolerant & many African American mother’s do not

breast feed.  Not only does our skin, hair color, hair texture, teeth, nails & bones depend on Vitamin D, but many other bodily functions do as well.  Bone marrow produces blood cells. Bones store all the minerals our body needs.  Bones balance acids in our body.  Bones aid the entire metabolic process,  in detoxification and endocrine organ function.  When free radicals are running around unchecked, from stress, ageing, and vitamin or mineral deficiencies, we may SEE grey hair, but the grey hair could be a sign of that other body systems may be suffering too. * 


Vitamin D Deficiency: Brittle Hair As a Possible Sign of Disease

To better explain how Vitamin D deficiency leads to disease,  first I will discuss brittle hair as a symptom of disease in Caucasion children.


Vitamin D deficiency leads to:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Osteoporosis
  3. Austism
  4. Alzheimers
  5. Tuberculosis


Methionine Deficiency

Methionine not only gives our hair and skin its color, but lack of methionine is found in individuals with cuticle

defects, hair that is short, brittle and sparse. The weak vitamin D deficient cells produce hair that does not “flow” is thin and breaks easily, sticking up or out.  Commonly called TDD,Trichothiodystrophy is a rare condition in Europeans which creates hair that is dry and breaks easily.  This hair has a texture similar to over processed ethnic hair. 


Vitamin D & Sulfide Bonds

Remember in our earlier discussion, we learned that hair is created by four different bonds.   Under the microscope TDD hair shows a “tiger tail pattern” where sulfer bonds should be, but are missing.  In many cases, methionine and cysteine amino acids are not present.  TDD presents risks of low birth rate, slow growth, preeclampsia and liver damage.  Children with TDD have short stature.  Disability and delayed development are common, along with respiratory infections, skin problems, cataracts & skeletal abnormalities.   So while the amino acid breakdown affects hair on the scalp which we can SEE, and our bones which we may feel, deficiencies in how cells grow and repair themselves can wreak havoc all over the body, including organs, hearing and the skin on the eyes.


Brittle Hair That Won’t Grow

A child with this rare condition is diagnosed first because of brittle hair that won’t grow, hair that stands out among white family members because when touched it has the texture of damaged black hair.  The child’s hair is just a symptom of this disease which causes significant damage to the whole body.  Again, the hair is the last place where nutrients are distributed.   Therefore, it is important that we have enough of the right vitamins and minerals WORKING TOGETHER in our body to keep our entire body healthy AND grow strong healthy hair and scalp cells.


The Magic Pill?

Your HAIR & SCALP HEALTH are not just genetic.   I have friends who take 1000 milligrams of Biotin to grow their hair.  This is not to say, Biotin doesn’t help hair growth, for as a nutrient, it does.  However, each person is an individual, with many nutrients working together to operate your body as a whole.  There are many vitamin supplements, lotions, and gadgets that claim to provide a magic solution to our hair issues.

While TDD is a disease with hair symptoms that are extreme, it demonstrates that the nutrients in your body or lack of nutrients can impact the texture & color of your hair. 


Break Down of Hair Bonds

Your hair and scalp health can be a WARNING SIGN of years of hair abuse by heat and chemicals which break down the nutrients.  For instance, we discussed how the hair is made of 15% Cysteine, but that amino acid is broken down by heat over 150 degrees.  Many of us use flat irons and blow dryers that go to at least 400 degrees.  Our activities are dehydrating our hair, boiling out the protein hydrogren bonds, and destroying the sulfer bonds, over processing our hair so that it is short, stiff, brittle, then we are further damaging our scalp with chemicals that literally burn our follicles, and destroy cell tissue so that our hair is sparse.  Moreover, as we feel that burn to our scalp, we also create scar tissue which shrinks space in our curl pattern so that new growth is kinkier.  But hair and scalp health can ALSO be a WARNING of more serious health issues to our organ systems deriving from a lack of nutrients working properly together IN THE WHOLE BODY.  This is why nutrient deficiency in the African American community is a problem.


Genetics matter, but if you are born healthy, as you age, or experience stress, to grow the kind of hair you want, you must not only avoid damaging your hair, but you must get enough of the right nutrients to promote healthy cell function for the ENTIRE BODY.  Now that I have described how free radicals and vitamin deficiency impact hair and body, I want to discuss one disease that particularly impacts the African American community.


Hair Health & Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in African Americans. One feature of heart disease is plaque on the walls

Cross section of plaque in a heart.

of arteries.  It is the clot formation, which prevents the flow of blood which triggers the heart attack.  Plaque is oxidized cholesterol deposited by LDL. 


Doctors tell us to lower our LDL.  Doctors suggest we raise our anti-oxidant levels by getting more green leafy vegetables, colored fruits, proteins and whole grains which give us the B Vitamins we need, (especially Folic Acid, B3, B6 & B12) to prevent conversion of methionine to homocysteine, which leads to the arterial plaque formation.  Doctors also tell us to avoid poly-unsaturated fats which cause oxidative damage.   To raise anti-oxidant levels, they suggest we get Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, Beta Carotene, Lycopene, and Vitamin C in our foods.  Think of anti-oxidants as a fountain of youth.  Working together, the anti-oxidants help each other munch up all the free radicals roaming around. 

Anti-oxidant rich foods.

You may notice that all of these nutrients are the very nutrients which are good for our hair too. 


If you have heart disease, or another medical concern, your body will need to use vitamins and minerals you consumer first to address  the more important functions of your organs and bones.  No matter what all the beauty commercials say, it is not just one vitamin or ingredient in a shampoo, or one gadget that will help you grow strong, elastic, manageable hair.  No shampoo is going to fix your heart.  And if you don’t address your overall health, your hair health will most likely worsen over time as well.


If you are vitamin deficient in one area, the other nutrients may not work properly throughout your entire body.   The example we have used here is how Vitamin D deficiency and the oxidation of methionine, by hydrogen peroxide building up in your follicles will bleach your hair FROM WITHIN, leading to grey hair, and you see this.  So

Damaged hair under a microscope.

you get a box of Clairol for your hair.  Meanwhile your arteries could be clogging as the methionine is converted to homocysteine.  If your arteries are not carrying blood properly, they can’t distribute the nutrients. Your hair will just go grey faster anyway.  Not only does that mean faster trips to the salon.  You might have a heart attack.  Chances are, if your hair is not healthy, the cause is not genetic, but something that you are doing to your hair, or lack of nutrients which may be damaging your entire body or it could be BOTH. 


Should you give up?  Should you just get a weave?  The point is that topical fixes that address one body symptom, but not the cause of the symptom don’t work in the long run.  They do make money however.  What happens when you change your diet? Well, one benefit is that you may become healthier overall.  Another benefit I have personally seen is that my hair is stronger, more elastic, and shinier.  Can I point to specific foods I have eaten?  Yes, I think so.


A friend heard that eating blueberries grows hair.  

Hype or science?  I suggested we delve further to see if that was true.  Blueberries are a well known superfood, a source of anti-oxidants, vitamin K & C.  We went to and calculated that she would need 3 cups per day to get the Vitamin K the human body needs in one day.  She’d need 4 cups to get enough Vitamin C.  Blueberries also contain 17.8 mg of Methionine per cup, which make up 2% of the Daily Recommended Value of protein.  To get the amount of Methionine needed in one day, she’d need to eat 50 cups of blueberries, over 4000 calories.  Most of us won’t eat 50 cups of blueberries, no matter how good they are. And our body needs more than just Vitamin K & C. However, I don’t want to be hard on blueberries.   They are a superfood because they have more nutritional value than most other foods we eat.  Also, the anti-oxidant value of the berries fights the oxidation by the free radicals which keep methionine from doing its job.  We can benefit from cutting out zero nutrition foods, filled with empty calories and adding in more nutritious foods. 


If you want to grow strong beautiful hair that’s very easy to manage, it might be worth it to take a look at your

Healthy hair under microscope.

diet.   In today’s world many of the food we eat on the go is nutrient poor.  The right foods and nutrients in the right amounts for you can also have a positive impact on the manageability of your hair and scalp & also help save your life. 


I use to have a great deal of grey hair myself.  Much of it has turned back to my natural color.  An understanding of this information has improved my overall health as well.  I hope that it provides help to you.



Alan Rubin MD, Examining Vitamin D’s Effect on the Brain The Essentials of Vitamin D Benefits, Vitamin D Deficiency Puts Blacks at Risk of Heart Disease


Ralph M. Trueb, Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair, International Journal of Trichology.  2009 Jan – June; 1 (1): 6-14. 10.4103/0974-7753.51923


Frederica Hegney, Gray Hair Causes – Oxidative Stress Theory –  Hydrogen Peroxide


Irene Klotz, Going Gray? Blame Catalase, Discovery News, March 2, 2009

How To Treat Grey Hair, May 23, 2010

Characterization of the cysteine-rich calcium-binding S100A3 protein from human hair cuticles.


Kizawa K, Troxler H, Kleinert P, Inoue T, Toyoda M, Morohashi M, Heizmann CW.

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002 Dec 20;299(5):857-62. Characterization of the cysteine-rich calcium-binding S100A3 protein from human hair cuticles.


Goerz G, Behrens W, Megahed M, Kuester W, Fohles J, Tsambaos D, Nikiforidis G, Balas C. Brittle and sparse hair with normal cystine content caused by methionine deficiency? Department of Dermatology, Heinrich-Heine University of Düsseldorf, Germany Acta Derm Venereol. 1996 Jan;76(1):62-4.


Cheng S, Stone J, de Berker D. Trichothiodystrophy and fragile hair: the distinction between diagnostic signs and diagnostic labels in childhood hair disease. Br J Dermatol. 2009 Dec;161(6):1379-83. Epub 2009 Sep 15.


Naima Manal, Amino Acids for Faster Hair Growth, EHow Health,


Audrey Sivasothy, Amino Acids and Black Hair Growth, EHow Health,


Teshia Washington, Amino Acids and African American Hair Growth, EHow Health,


 copyright Tammy Barbour 2012


Leave a comment


  1. grandma

     /  09/23/2012

    Great info.- hope it will return my grey hair to black (even a little bit).

  2. denice mario

     /  11/30/2012

    thank you, i have been using doctor cannel vitamin d, with 5000 units of vitamin d and
    vitamin k is also added. my hair showed visible signs of returning to it’s original color,
    instead of the blanche colour. i have also recently learned that the vitamin Catalase,
    which is an important antioxidant-enzyme plays a key role in preventing hair follicles
    from turning blanche, white-grey; along with a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement which
    contains a complete b-comples. again, thank you hallelujah.
    ps. antioxidants are indeed anti-aging as well

  3. Thanks for a very interesting article!

  4. Jenny Wright

     /  08/19/2013

    I just read this article and I want to thank you for taking time to explain this to us common folks. I do have a question for you in regards to subject above. You seem to know more than anyone I’ve spoke to about this so I hope you can help me. In Oct. 2012 my family and I moved into a new home. It’s not our home we rent it. It was built in 2010. In Nov. 2012 my two kids and myself started noticing strange changes in our hair’ texture. All three if us were having the same symptoms. My husband was not at the time but just a few months later he too had the same issues with texture. This is the strange part, now my toy poodle is having the same texture issues. Our hair has completely changed shape. My hair was always extremely curly but now it’s straight as a stick. In fact, it looks like each strand was ran over by a cement truck. Each hair is completely flat. The texture now is almost like a hard plastic.
    I have been to so many doctors and no one can explain what this might be. I have had what seems like gallons of blood tested and the only thing I found out is that I was slightly anemic. I even thought the house we just moved into was toxic in some form. I have purchased a carbon monoxide tester. I was also tested for metals in my blood but still nothing come of it. Can you explain what this is? Or lead me in the right direction?

    Thank you,


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