Nutritional Intervention Reverses Damage to Hair and Skin

Dr. Gary Null

      The following study alludes to what can be accomplished for hair growth and hair loss prevention simply using dietary modifications, phytonutrients and raw juices. Although a small study, it reinforces what we’ve been saying and the feedback we’ve been recieving for years, and doesn’t account for the additional measures beyond phytonutrients and diet that our treatment protocols for men and women do.
      Our recommendation for an optimal hair growth diet would be consistent with the recommendations in this study, with the addition of generous amounts of healthy fats, i.e. Fish Oil, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Nutritional Intervention Reverses Damage to Hair and Skin
Caused by Aging and Genetic Predispositions by Gary Null, Ph.D., and Martin Feldman, M.D.
Winter 2006/Spring 2007

This six-month study is a part of a larger, ongoing intervention study that has evaluated the effect of multiple lifestyle factors—nutrition, exercise, stress management, attitude and personal environment—on objective measures of functioning (weight, blood pressure cholesterol levels, hormone levels) and overall wellness.

In this leg of the study, we focused on the effect of lifestyle changes on hair and skin, which are observable indicators of the aging process, and on various aspects of physical, mental and energy functioning. Participants who entered the study had problems with their hair, skin or both.

Specific goals of the study were to induce new hair growth in bald areas, slow thinning of hair and reverse graying. These problems are caused by the aging process and/or genetic predispositions. The attempt to overcome genetic limitations was a new challenge for the intervention. For skin, the goal was to reverse or improve the effects of sun damage and premature aging of the skin. Processes that cause aging include: damage to DNA from oxidative stress and free radicals; glycation, which creates a cross-linking of proteins and sugars that damage skin; and inflammatory processes.

We included all dietary and exercise requirements of the previous study (which did not show overall improvements in hair and skin texture, despite other worthwhile life experience improvements), but in addition, included 2-10 times the normal dietary intake of phytonutrients, in the form of fresh fruits and vegetable juices or concentrated fruit or vegetable powders. We had hypothesized that the body must be saturated with phytonutrients to prevent damage to DNA and actually repair it, leading to improvements in hair and skin. The question was whether people can reach the level of compensation needed to reduce system damage, reverse DNA damage and exceed genetic limitations causing loss of hair or graying.

The nutritional protocols required a low-fat, high complex carbohydrate diet that was primarily vegetarian. The diet also eliminated foods and beverages that have documented negative health effects.

Conventional medicine focuses on treating specific symptoms and diseases after a breakdown in healthy body functioning has occurred. In contrast, our goal was to improve the condition of hair and skin, which are observable indicators of the aging process, and to optimize physical and mental functioning, in addition to improving overall wellness and quality of life. This intervention studied the effects of changes in five lifestyle components—nutrition, physical activity, stress management, attitude and personal environment. The measurements were for the quality of a person's skin and hair. The length of the study was 6 months.

138 participants completed all aspects of the Hair and Skin Study. We created a comprehensive rating scale. Each participant was required to maintain a weekly journal. We also filmed the participants at the beginning and at the conclusion of the study. The rating scale provided for five outcomes: worse, unchanged, improved, slightly improved or much improved.

Every other week there was a study group meeting for the participants which consisted of a lecture, information about exercise, the specifics of diet, stress management, meditation and supplementation and addressing individual questions and concerns. Study participants:

  • Number of people at the onset: 368

  • Number that completed the study: 138

  • Drop out rate 54.3%

  • 10.32% continued on an additional 3 months (38 people)

  • The criterion age and hair loss parameters were as follows: all people, 22 years old to 80 years old, including balding, thinning or graying hair for at least seven years. This was to exclude singular life events such as chemotherapy, infection, or stress, which could precipitate hair loss, but with the possibility of regrowth.

    We had each person integrate the following 6 components into their lifestyle:

    1. Exercise

    2. The exercise component of the intervention included both aerobic and resistance training; the aerobic portion of the exercise included at least 45 minutes per day of cardiac conditioning per day, sustaining for this length of time 70% of optimal heart rate, and resistance training on 8-10 various large muscle group machines per day, at 3-5 reps per circuit, times 5 circuits, building gradually up to 50% of muscle group failure by end of study. This was done six days a week.

    3. Stress management techniques

    4. The relaxation/meditation component recommended a minimum of two half-hour sessions per day of techniques such as prayer, meditation, journal writing, listening to calming music, walking or yoga.

    5. Self actualization leading to self empowerment

    6. Participants required emotional and physical support (in the form of talk therapy, hands on exercise demonstration, etc.) in order to adopt lifestyle behaviors that often differed from the choices which led them to the habits which created their overweight conditions. Coaching also included diet counseling in the form of education about the benefits of a vegetarian diet for those suffering from circulatory, blood sugar, joint, and weight problems. We utilized group counseling sessions, small group discussions and one on one talk therapy sessions by licensed nutritional counselors.

      It was critical for participants to change their attitudes toward program components such as food, exercise, and even toward the status of their personal relationships. Those who developed favorable attitudes in all three areas were better able to make lifestyle changes which provided measurable results.

    7. Nutrition: A live foods diet

    8. The dietary portion of the protocol included a three pronged approach:

      1. Foods that were eliminated from the diet included all animal protein (beef and poultry) and shellfish; dairy products; wheat; alcohol and caffeine; simple sugars and artificial sweeteners; soft drinks and carbonated beverages; fried, barbecued, and processed foods; food additives, canned and salted foods, dried fruits, preservatives, coloring agents, flavorings, MSG, and yeast.

      2. Specifically, the diet included the following foods:

      3. The 'repair' portion of our program involves the hypothesis of our study: that the consumption of the high quantities of phytochemicals present in the juices, vegetables, and fruits, and their natural powdered concentrates, will help repair damage done both to the immune system as well as help the health of the hair and skin. Participants consumed fruit and green juices at a ratio of five vegetable juices to each fruit juice. Each participant began by consuming one 16-ounce glass of juice per day in week 1 and built up to eight glasses per day in week eight.

      In addition to the dietary protocols, the program recommended a broad-based intake for vitamin and mineral supplementation that included the following:

      Omega 3 EPA & DHA 1500mg
      Coenzyme Q 10 100mg 3 x per day
      Milk Thistle 200mg
      Linoleic Acid 50mg
      N Acetyl Cysteine 500mg 2x per day
      Grape Seed Extract 200mg
      Alpha Lipoic Acid 500mg 3x per day
      Quercitin 100mg 3x per day
      St. John's Wort 300mg
      Vitamin E 50% 400 IU 2x per day
      Selenium Methionine 200mcg
      Linoleic Acid 50 mg.
      Ascorbic Acid 1000mg-8000mg (or up to bowel tolerance)
      L-Carnosine 500mg 3x per day
      Acetyl-L-Carnotine 200mg 3x per day
      Acidophilus 1 teaspoon per day
      Superoxide Dismutase Superoxide Dismutase
      Dimethyl Glysine 150mg/per day
      50 mg B complex once a day
      Beta Carotene 333 IU/mg 5000IU
      Niacinamide 50mg
      Di Calcium Pantothenate 92% 50mg
      Vitamin B12 1% 500mcg

    9. Environmental hygiene

    10. For the personal environment component of this study, participants were asked to reduce their exposure to air pollutants, allergens, toxins, and electromagnetic fields in their living and work environments.

      For some, this entailed a complete overhaul of living and working spaces, eliminating clutter, finding non toxic cleaning products, reducing dry cleaning, etc.

      For others, this entailed evaluating their actual jobs, neighborhoods, workplaces, and homes. For some, this entailed making major changes to lessen environmental exposure to toxins in their home and work environments.

    More than 90% of study participants felt that the thorough environmental overhauls were too stressful to consider at the time of the study.

    For those participants who addressed every area of the protocol there were statistically significant improvements.

    138 participants completed all aspects of the Hair and Skin Study. Participants scored improvements in 20 separate areas of hair and skin condition. We also found improvements in many aspects of mental and physical functioning. Participants rated each outcome measure as worse, unchanged, slightly improved, improved, or much improved. In this particular study, more of the ratings in each of eight sample measurements fell into the "slightly improved" and "improved" categories, than in any other category. Both men and women rated similar positive outcomes, as did participants both below and above (and including )the age of 55.

    The findings of our present study augment the results of the prior lifestyle intervention that we conducted. The prior research found improvements in objective measures of bodily functioning, including weight, impedance for body fat, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. The vast majority of participants results showed improvements in energy as well as overall sense of well being.

    Hair and skin results.The ratings documented improvements in measures of hair, facial skin, body skin and nails. The most frequently improved hair measures were thinning of hair (69.8%) and hair texture (66.9%). Also improved were luster of hair (65.4%), balding (61.0%), graying of hair (58.3%), hair loss per day/week (57.3%) and darkening of hair (52.6%). The skin measures improved most often were skin texture (86.7%) and skin tone (81.2%). Also improved were wrinkles (63.0%), blemishes (61.4%) and eyelids (37.4%).

    Physical, mental and energy results.The ratings showed a high frequency of improvement in mental capabilities and energy status. Overall energy function was improved in 91.5% of participants; overall mental function was improved in 82.9%.

    Participants age 55 and older did well with the protocols, scoring improvements in hair, skin and functioning. However, the mean scores of younger participants (under age 55) were significantly better than those of older people in 11 of 42 measures of functioning. Similarly, in a comparison of male and female participants, the mean scores of women were significantly better than men's in 12 of 42 measures.

    For those in the study who participated in some areas of the of the protocol, but not all of the areas, there were measurable reported benefits, such as improving inflammatory conditions, getting better sleep, having more energy, better digestion, and less pain. We believe that a multifactorial approach is crucial to ameliorating damage to hair and skin. We also realize this comprehensive approach requires a substantial discipline and a willingness to surrender some unhealthy comforts. Hence the need for more time and input on the self empowerment portion of the protocol.

    The feedback we received was that the better people felt about themselves the easier it was to sustain these rather severe lifestyle and behavioral changes. We questioned more than 100 of the participants who left the study. Overwhelmingly they complained that they did not have the discipline, the self confidence, or personal support system to see this through. Therefore, our recommendation would be to work least 3 months strictly and solely upon improving self esteem, gaining confidence, overcoming fear and developing strength of character. The final point to be made is that we have kept in contact for the past 6 months with most of the people who finished the study. They are continuing and seeing more improvements in all areas and are looking forward to the next health support group. Despite the psychological hurdles, the protocols are safe, nontoxic interventions that improve hair and skin status and overall wellness at far less cost than the treatments preferred by conventional medicine, including pharmaceuticals, plastic surgery and other types of surgery.

    Editor's note
          We concur with all the recommendations in this sudy (although his supplement choices, though helpful could clearly better and more specifically target Androgenetic Alopecia) with the exception of his exercise recommendations. He recommends 45 plus minutes a day of aerobic exercise and weightlifting, targeting all major muscle groups, 6 days a week. This, in our opinion clearly constitutes overtraining, and could serve to undermine his intervention by predisposing to inflammation, weakened immune function, sleep disturbances and depression. A higher percentage of participants would have no doubt completed the study had the recommended exercise regime been more reasonable. A much more effective exercise component for fat reduction, muscle anabolism, cardiovascular function and well being would look like weight training major muscle groups 2 times a week, and doing a short duration sprint based cardio 4 or so times a week.

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