Before we understand the role of proteins let us first learn about part of a strand of hair.
The part of the hair visible on the outer surface of the scalp/ skin is called the hair shaft.
The part of the hair below the skin surface is called the root.
The hair root is anchored to the body and emerges from underneath the skin in a sac called the hair bulb.
There is a sac called the sebaceous gland underneath the skin. This sac makes and pours natural oil over the hair root to protect it from dryness and keep it moist.
There is a group of tiny cells/ compartments called melanocytes in the inner layers of the skin. Melanocytes make pigments of different colours. The colour of the pigment will determine your natural hair color.
Your tresses/ hair visible outside are many hair shafts!
FACT: The average human has 1,00,000 hairs/ hair shafts on the head.
90% of the human hair shaft is made up of a tough protein called Keratin. Keratin like all other proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids.
Imagine keratin protein as a chain and amino acids are like beads on the chain/ necklace. Each strand of hair is made up of many such chains/ necklaces that are tightly bundled up but not visible to the naked eye.
The beads of keratin protein/ the amino acids are of two types- essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are not made in the body and should be supplied through the diet. Non -essential amino acids can be manufactured in the body.
Which amino acids are required for hair health and how can it be provided to the body?
It is an amino acid/ building block of hair that makes hair strong. It makes up 1/4th of keratin protein in the hair.
Cysteine forms tiny bridges holding the keratin chains tightly together making hair strong.
Food sources: Lean chicken breast, Lentils, oatmeal, eggs
Lysine is a component of collagen which is another protein present in hair. It strengthens the hair and the skin containing the hair root.
It also makes hair look healthy, lustrous and voluminous apart from making it strong.
Food sources: Soy beans, fenugreek seeds, cod fish, tuna
Is an essential amino acid that protects hair from oxidative damage and prevent premature greying of hair.
It is also needed for production of collagen to make the hair shaft strong, helps form the structure of the hair follicle.
Food source: Nuts, rajma and whole grains like quinoa
This is an amino acid which is made in the body. But the ability of the body to make this amino acid decreases with age and it should be supplied through the diet to promote hair growth as one ages.
It provides sulphur which is needed for hair growth.
Food source: Cabbage, fish, milk, dark leafy vegetables
It is a non-essential amino acid which helps in the production of collagen in hair.
Food source: Mushroom, cabbage, strawberries, citrus fruits
This helps in the production of melanin. Melanin is what imparts colour to hair.
Lesser melanin = lighter hair colour.
It is usually used to treat stress related problems that can cause hair fall and prevent healthy hair growth.
Food source: Tofu, Pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, spinach
What happens to the protein/ amino acids from food? How do they make it to the hair?
The protein that is consumed in the diet is used to build muscles, keep your organs functioning smoothly, help body make and balance hormones, keep your immune system functioning efficiently, your skin healthy and contribute to hair health.
After you consume protein the body first uses it to build your essential/ important parts like your muscles in your arms and legs, heart muscles and other functions to keep the body running smoothly.
Only after allocating dietary protein for the essential functions does the body use the leftover protein to build your hair. Hair is the last priority when it comes to allocating protein in the body.
What will happen if protein requirements are not met?
If you have a diet that is low in protein content, the protein will get used up for other essential functions leaving none for your hair. This is fine for short term protein deficiency.
But if protein needs are not adequately met in the long run this is bad for hair health. This can cause thinning, damage and hair fall.
The above can also happen if you do not have a mixed diet. A mixed diet provides all the amino acids.
How to provide the body with proteins and amino acids for hair health?
Make sure your protein intake meets your RDA. Meet the protein quantity needed by the body.
1 gram of protein per kg body weight.
(If you weigh 55 kg make sure you consume 55g of protein in a day)
Protein quality also matters
All the animal sources of protein like chicken, eggs and milk contain all the amino acids.
But plant-based sources do not contain all the amino acids. Vegetarians and vegans should consume proteins from different sources to make sure they get all amino acids.
From the above information it is evident that dietary amino acids and ultimately proteins are very essential for hair health and growth. Apart from protein there are other vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet that ultimately contribute to healthy hair.
The health of your hair depends on several factors like health, age, genetics, diet, stress, the quality of hair products you use and other health conditions.
Women opt for chemical laden solutions like protein shampoos, hair keratin/protein treatment to strengthen hair or oils to make hair smooth and silky. These do more harm than good or are only temporary solutions to hair health.
All the above factors are also cause hair thinning/ hair loss, dryness, damage and premature greying.
Having a healthy balanced diet is the only solution with lasting benefits.
But many don’t have time to prepare carefully measured(calculated) healthy meals to meet the amino acid/protein and nutrient requirements for healthy hair. What can they do?
Wondering if there is a single and simple dietary solution to the above issue?
&Me’s NutriHAIR drink. It contains 24 powerful ingredients including 308mg of amino acid required for Keratin production in the hair. It also contains biotin for hair growth, coconut and Vitamin A for hair strength and Bringraj to reduce premature greying.
All ingredients in a preservative free, delicious orange juice-based drink. A product that nourishes your hair from root to tip!