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Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Hair Loss: What’s the Connection?

    Quick summary: Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Hair Loss

    • Importance of B12: Vitamin B12 deficiency can impair hair growth and lead to hair loss. B12 is vital for cell division and red blood cell production, both of which are important for healthy hair.
    • Symptoms of Deficiency: Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, and memory issues.
    • Deficiency Treatment Options: Treatment includes dietary changes and B12 supplements, available as multivitamins, B-complex, and stand-alone preparations.

    Hair loss can be a distressing condition, impacting not only physical appearance, but also emotional well-being. While many factors contribute to hair loss, one often overlooked cause is vitamin B12 deficiency. This essential nutrient plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including healthy hair growth. This article explores the connection between vitamin B12 and hair loss, as well as what to expect when you are deficient in this nutrient.

    The Role of Vitamin B12 in Hair Loss

    Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a crucial nutrient needed for cell division and DNA synthesis1. These processes are essential for healthy hair growth. B12 also helps in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body, including the scalp. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to anaemia, a condition characterised by a lack of healthy red blood cells. Anaemia reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the scalp and hair follicles, which can impair hair growth and lead to hair thinning and loss2. To learn more about the other nutrients that play a crucial role in hair growth, read our comprehensive blog: Diet for healthy hair

    Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

    Hair loss is just one symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency. Other early signs can be subtle and easily mistaken for other conditions. Here are some common symptoms to watch out for3:

    • Fatigue and weakness
    • Headache
    • Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
    • Difficulty concentrating or issues with memory
    • Mouth sores
    • Pale skin
    • Loss of appetite
    • Difficulty maintaining balance

    If you are experiencing a number of these symptoms, it’s important to consult your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. A simple blood test can determine your B12 levels. Other diagnostic tests may include a full blood count (FBC) to check for anaemia and additional tests to evaluate overall health.

    Treating Vitamin B12 deficiency

    Dietary Adjustments

    While supplements are often the most effective way to address a deficiency, some dietary changes can also help increase your B12 intake. Here are some B12-rich foods to consider adding to your diet4:

    • Animal products: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products are all excellent sources of vitamin B12.
    • Fortified foods: Some breakfast cereals, plant-based milks, and nutritional yeasts are fortified with vitamin B12.
    Vitamin B12 dietary sources
    Dietary sources for Vitamin B12

    Getting enough vitamin B12 through your diet is ideal. However, for some people, this might not be possible, particularly for individuals following a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you have trouble consuming B12-rich foods, or have issues with absorption, supplements can be a valuable alternative way to meet your B12 needs. 

    Vitamin B12 Supplements

    B12 supplements come in various forms to suit individual needs. Multivitamins provide a convenient option but typically contain a lower B12 dose (5-25 mcg per serving). B-Complex supplements offer a higher B12 concentration (50-500 mcg) alongside other B vitamins for broader support. Finally, stand-alone B12 supplements provide the most concentrated form, ranging from 500 mcg to 1,000 mcg per serving5.

    Vitamin B12 is available in several forms, including tablets, capsules, syrups and sublingual (under the tongue) preparations. Therefore, even if you prefer not to take tablets, there are alternative options available to meet your needs. For severe deficiencies, especially those causing neurological problems, B12 injections might be necessary. These injections deliver the vitamin directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system, which can sometimes have difficulty absorbing oral supplements3.

    Recommended Dosage of Vitamin B12

    The recommended daily dosage of vitamin B12 for adults varies depending on age and other health factors. Generally, the recommended daily allowance is 1.5 mcg7 to 2.4 mcg6. It’s important to consult your doctor to determine the appropriate dosage for you. Higher doses of vitamin B12 are generally considered to be safe,5 as our body absorbs only as much as it needs while any excess amounts are passed out of the body with urine. However, studies have shown some associations between high doses of vitamin B12 with acne outbreaks and certain skin conditions8. Therefore, sticking to the recommended daily dose is the best option. Therefore, to optimise benefits and avoid potential negative impacts, adhering to the recommended daily B12 intake is advised.

    Correcting a vitamin B12 deficiency can significantly improve hair health and promote regrowth. However, it is important to note that hair growth is a slow process, and it may take several months to see noticeable improvements. Consistent treatment and monitoring are essential to ensure long-term benefits 

    Considering Hair Transplant Surgery

    If you are experiencing severe hair loss that persists despite taking vitamin B12 supplements and addressing any deficiencies, it may be time to consider more advanced treatments, such as a hair transplant. Hair transplantation is a highly effective solution for restoring hair in areas of significant thinning or balding. This procedure involves the extraction and implantation of healthy hair follicles from a donor site to the affected areas, providing a permanent and natural-looking solution to hair loss. Our hair transplant specialist surgeons are available to help determine if this treatment is suitable for your situation, and can offer a comprehensive plan to restore your hair and confidence.

    Conclusion

    Vitamin B12 deficiency can be a contributing factor to hair loss. If you are experiencing hair loss along with other symptoms of B12 deficiency, consult your doctor to get a blood test done, as early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce hair loss and improve your overall health. Remember, a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle practices can help you along your journey towards healthy hair growth and long lasting results. 

    References

    1. O’Leary, F. and Samman, S. (2010) ‘Vitamin B12 in health and disease’, Nutrients, 2(3), pp. 299–316. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257642/
    2. Ferreira, G.C. (1995) ‘Heme biosynthesis: Biochemistry, molecular biology, and relationship to disease’, Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes, 27(2), pp. 147–150. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02110029
    3. NHS. Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamin-b12-or-folate-deficiency-anaemia/symptoms/
    4. Harvard Health (2016) The A list for vitamin B-12 sources  Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-a-list-for-vitamin-b-12-sources
    5. National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Label Database. Available at: https://dsld.od.nih.gov/dsld/index.jsp
    6. Dietary reference intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B₆, folate, vitamin B₁₂, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline a report of the Standing Committee on the scientific evaluation of dietary reference intakes and its panel on folate, other B vitamins, and choline and subcommittee on Upper Reference Levels of nutrients, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (1998). Washington, D.C: National Academy Press. 
    7. NHS. B vitamins and folic acid. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/
    8. Momin, S.B., Peterson, A. and Del Rosso, J.Q. (2010) ‘A status report on drug-associated acne and acneiform eruptions’, Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 9(6). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20645524/
    9. Created with BioRender.com

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