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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ever wondered why we go grey as we age...

Ever wondered why we really go grey as we age? Read below:

Down through the ages people have wondered at what brings on the streaks of white that appear in our hair as we age. Was it a mark of wisdom? A badge of honor? No one could say.

Some recent work may finally answer the age-old question. It seems a chain reaction of chemicals in the body cause a massive buildup of hydrogen peroxide that removes the color from hair - so that hair bleaches itself from the inside out.

The research report that discusses the breakthrough discovery appears online in The FASEB Journal; a publication sponsored by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, one of the most cited scientific journals worldwide.

The team of European scientists made the discovery by looking at cell cultures of human hair follicles. Such basic research in biology has brought us the answer to one of the questions most curious questions of aging and perhaps will one day help create new ways to manage those pesky gray hairs if you choose to, that is.

The researchers from the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom found that the graying process begins not with demanding work or raising free thinking children, but rather with a dip in an enzyme known as catalase that makes it harder for the hydrogen peroxide that's naturally inside your hair to be broken down.

Any veteran of hair coloring can tell you that hydrogen peroxide takes the color from hair. As hair follicles undergo wear and tear, the hydrogen peroxide continues to build up, blocking the synthesis of melanin, our hair's natural pigment.

What's more, other protective enzymes that might help to repair the damage are also in short supply and so gray hairs appear.

Some gray hairs - especially coarse hairs, prematurely gray hairs and gray hairs around the hairline or at your temples are especially resistant to being colored, or lose what color you apply more quickly than grays in other parts of your head.

"Not only blondes change their hair color with hydrogen peroxide," said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.

"All of our hair cells make a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide, but as we get older, this little bit becomes a lot. We bleach our hair pigment from within, and our hair turns gray and then white. This research, however, is an important first step to get at the root of the problem, so to speak."

The experts suspect the mechanism identified in the research might also be responsible for a condition known as vitiligo, where white spots appear on the skin. Skins cells are known to also produce small amounts of hydrogen peroxide as part of the natural oxygen cycle.

So, if you could stop that initial chemical reaction, could you keep hair from going gray?


The scientists who completed this work hope to find a way to remix the chemical soup so that the natural color stays in the hair follicles.

This would be gold (no pun intended here either) for the hugely profitable hair care industry, and it might not be long until products that take out the naturally produced hydrogen peroxide in your hair follicles are on the shelves at your local drugstore.

To your good health,

Kirsten Whittaker
Daily Health Bulletin Editor

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