Nutrients Count – Can Vitamin B12 Deficiency Cause Hair Loss?

Depleted, or deficient levels of vitamin B12 in human blood have been associated with several hair loss concerns & scalp pain. 

B12 is an essential vitamin that’s stored in the body’s liver. As well as providing nourishment for hair shaft development and growth, balanced B12 levels are vital for the support of the health of many of the body’s systems including the nerve endings in the scalp.

The metabolic process of B12 is involved in the production of new DNA, and the formation of all types of blood cells. B12 also plays an essential role in folate and amino acid metabolism and synthesis of citric acid, all akin to hair growth. 

Low levels of Total/Serum B12 presenting on a blood test report may be suggestive for some (not all) folk, of scalp pain, hair loss, or fragile, brittle, and limp tresses. B12 deficiency has multiple stages of severity with anemia being the most severe. Levels outside of the optimal range are always a concern to Trichologists, as are all the other components that associate with B12 metabolisms, such as carbohydrates, fat, and protein intake.  

B12 is necessary for the development of healthy hair cells and for the growth phase to function to its full potential so that hair grows strong and doesn’t fall out prematurely.  B12 also influences the regulation of the function of the sebaceous glands which are key in the maintenance of hair growth, a sebaceous gland is connected to every hair follicle. The hair growth cycle also relies on the production of new DNA  – hair cell formation is the 2nd fasted dividing cell in humans.

Meat eaters and vegetarians can easily source the RDI – 1.5ug from animal foods unless they have underlying health or genetic disorders that influence absorption or their metabolism. 

There are sustainable boundaries to overcome for vegans, to ensure sufficient intake of B12, because there’re few edible plant sources that contain B12.  Apart from some species of seaweed, and some dark green leafy veg the only other source of B12 are fortified foods, such as Marmite and some cereals. Even when consumed regularly these foods won’t provide enough B12 to stop levels from depleting. 

The change from minor depletion to deficiency can occur rapidly. Routine blood test results can give misleading readings about B12 levels, this is because a routine B12 blood test looks at the Total Serum B12 level in the entire circulation, rather than the Active B12 level that can be used, and transported to the cells through tissues and stored in the liver. Stored B12 can last for approximately 2 years. Vegans should bear this fact in mind if having a blood test within 2 years of changing their eating habits – they may not think their levels are depleting because changes to Active B12 levels may not be shown on tests. Vegans really should supplement to prevent health concerns and reduce the risk of hair loss. Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient!

Individuals suffering from hair loss who have health concerns such as Coeliac Disease and Pernicious Anemia should be mindful of nutrient intake, especially foods that block or reduce absorption.  B12 deficiency can be an acquired condition from the use of some medications eg. treatment with antacids, and PPI’s,  so, therefore, have the potential to be a trigger of excessive hair shedding.

….simple, harmless and cheap, B12 vitamin can not only cure but also prevent a vast spectrum of diseases affecting each and every part of the human body and mind.” Dr. Joseph Chandy. 
Book recommendation: For a more detailed look at the effect of  B12 deficiency on human health take a look at Vitamin B12 deficiency in Clinical practice by Dr. Joseph Chandy (Kayyalackakom)


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