Study finds that stress really can turn your hair gray « Khabarhub
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Study finds that stress really can turn your hair gray


27 January 2020  

Time taken to read : 5 Minute


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Back in 2009, a New York Times article appeared with the headline, “After 44 days in the White House, Obama’s hair is grayer.” The article referred to a common trend of presidents’ hair turning dramatically gray during their terms in the Whitehouse.

This idea of stress turning hair gray has pervaded popular culture for centuries. It’s often referred to as Marie Antoinette syndrome, in reference to an oft-told, but most likely apocryphal, story of the ill-fated French queen’s hair turning white overnight after being captured during the revolution.

While the idea of one’s hair turning white in an instant after a sudden fright is an amusing cartoonish fiction, there is a solid body of anecdotal evidence describing instances where hair rapidly turns white after months, or even weeks, of stress or trauma.

In a new mouse study published in the journal Nature, scientists from Harvard linked the sympathetic nervous system—the one that’s behind your “fight or flight” response—to developing gray hair. When you’re stressed out, your system releases the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which primes your body for action.

The researchers discovered that norepinephrine damages melanocyte stem cells, which help regenerate color within your hair follicles. As a result, if you’re often stressed, you can prematurely develop gray hair.

During the study, researchers put mice through three different types of stress. All mice had some changes in their hair color, but only the ones who lost all of their melanocyte stem cells after intense stress developed white hair. Stress isn’t the only factor: Previous research has also suggested that melanocyte stem cells are simply damaged with time.

“When we started to study this, I expected that stress was bad for the body — but the detrimental impact of stress that we discovered was beyond what I imagined,” study author Ya-Chieh Hsu, Ph.D., said in a statement. “After just a few days, all of the pigment-regenerating stem cells were lost. Once they’re gone, you can’t regenerate pigments anymore. The damage is permanent.”

Of course, this study was conducted on mice, not humans, but the idea works in theory for people, too, says Gary Goldenberg, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

“Popular belief has always been that physical and emotional stress causes one’s hair to turn gray. We’ve known for a while that melanocytes in the hair follicles are a lot more sensitive than the same cells that reside in the skin,” Dr. Goldenberg says. “Therefore stress, whether oxidative, hormonal, or inflammatory, can cause destruction of these cells.”

Finding ways to de-stress can do wonders for your whole body—not just your hair. “We know that stress has a negative impact on our health and skin in general,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

He says that stress has been shown to impair wound healing, promote acne breakouts, and worsen skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. (Not to mention, it can also boost your risk of life-threatening conditions, like heart disease.)

Of course, stressing less could help improve your health—and possibly even slow down your grays—but that’s simply easier said than done. “It’s not enough to say ‘don’t stress,’ since this is something most of us can’t control,” Dr. Goldenberg says. “But helping your body diminish normal stress may be helpful.”

He recommends doing your best to eat a nutrient-rich diet, hydrate often, and exercise regularly to be kind to your body and lower your natural stress levels. (Check out these science-backed ways to relax, too.)

And, if you develop gray hair anyway, embrace it—it’s a natural part of getting older.

(with inputs from Agencies)

Publish Date : 27 January 2020 17:40 PM

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