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Catalase for Graying Hair?

August 4, 2014 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Question: I’ve read that an enzyme supplement called catalase helps reverse hair graying. I think this sounds too good to be true. But, I hope I’m wrong! What’s your opinion about these products?

Answer: For starters, let’s briefly review what causes the graying of hair and the potential role of catalase. The loss of melanin, a pigment which colors hair, is partially induced by a build up or overproduction of hydrogen peroxide in hair follicles. Catalase, an antioxidant enzyme produced by the body, helps convert hydrogen peroxide into two, non-bleaching substances – oxygen and water. This is the rationale for some of the supplements you’ve likely seen. However, it should be noted that there are other enzymes (MSR A and B) which also affect melanin production and tend to decline with age. For this reason, L’Oreal, the cosmetic giant, is currently developing a supposedly all-natural supplement which targets yet another hair graying mechanism – tyrosine-related protein TRP-2 production.

To answer your question directly, I don’t think catalase supplements are likely to repigment hair. Simply put, I haven’t seen any scientific evidence to support such claims. In fact, there’s very little published data demonstrating the potential of any food or supplement to darken hair color in the absence of significant nutritional deficiencies. That said, there’s no harm in attempting to naturally increase catalase levels in the body. There may even be some benefit to doing so, since catalase assists in balancing oxidative status and is sometimes lacking in certain disease states such as type-2 diabetes.

According to the medical literature, there are several foods and supplements which conditionally boost serum concentrations of catalase. Whether or not these substances will affect catalase in hair follicles is unknown. That said, two studies reveal that both alcohol-free and alcoholic red wine (300 mL/day) increase catalase in people eating an antioxidant-poor diet. Supplementing with 3.6 – 6.3 grams daily of Chlorella vulgaris, an edible microalgae, elevated catalase in another group with high levels of oxidative stress – smokers. Other nutraceuticals showing promise with respect to catalase include “lipidated” curcumin (400 mg/day of Longivida), high doses of Korean red ginseng (6 grams daily), and liquid L-carnitine (2 grams/day). Last, but not least, a few trials substantiate the catalase-boosting effect of daily walnut intake. That’s a tasty surprise! Certainly, there’s no guarantee that any of these natural approaches will necessarily prevent or reverse graying. But, regularly eating walnuts, having a daily glass of red wine and/or judiciously using the well researched supplements listed above may very well benefit your health in many other ways.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Intake of Alcohol-Free Red Wine Modulates Antioxidant Enzyme (link)

Study 2 - Changes In Antioxidant Endogenous Enzymes (Activity and Gene (link)

Study 3 - Investigation of the Effects of Chlorella Vulgaris Supplementation On … (link)

Study 4 - Six-Week Supplementation with Chlorella Has Favorable Impact On (link)

Study 5 - Diverse Effects of a Low Dose Supplement of Lipidated Curcumin In (link)

Study 6 - Beneficial Effects of Korean Red Ginseng on Lymphocyte DNA Damage (link)

Study 7 - Antioxidant Effects of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer In Healthy Subjects (link)

Study 8 – Single Dose Administration of L-carnitine Improves Antioxidant (link)

Study 9 - Effect of Walnut-Enriched Restructured Meat In the Antioxidant Status (link)

Study 10 - The Antioxidant Status Response to Low-Fat and Walnut Paste (link)

Antioxidants Present in the Human Body

Source: Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;60 Suppl 3:27-36. (link)

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2 Comments to “Catalase for Graying Hair?”

  1. JP Says:

    Update: More support for L-carnitine supplementation in relation to raising catalase:


    Nutr J. 2014 Aug 4;13(1):79. [Epub ahead of print]

    Effects of L-carnitine supplementation on oxidative stress and antioxidant enzymes activities in patients with coronary artery disease: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.

    Lee BJ, Lin JS, Lin YC, Lin PT.


    Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Higher oxidative stress may contribute to the pathogenesis of coronary artery disease (CAD). The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of L-carnitine (LC, 1000 mg/d) on the markers of oxidative stress and antioxidant enzymes activities in CAD patients.


    We enrolled 47 CAD patients in the study. The CAD patients were identified by cardiac catheterization as having at least 50% stenosis of one major coronary artery. The subjects were randomly assigned to the placebo (n = 24) and LC (n = 23) groups. The intervention was administered for 12 weeks. The levels of serum LC, plasma malondialdehyde (MDA), and erythrocyte antioxidant enzymes activities [catalase (CAT), superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx)] were measured before and after intervention.


    Thirty-nine subjects completed the study (placebo, n = 19; LC, n = 20). After 12 weeks of LC supplementation, the level of MDA was significantly reduced (2.0 +/- 0.3 to 1.8 +/- 0.3 mumol/L, P = 0.02) and the level of LC (33.6 +/- 13.6 to 40.0 +/- 12.0 mumol/L, P = 0.04) and antioxidant enzymes activities [CAT (12.7 +/- 5.5 to 13.1 +/- 5.8 U/mg of protein, P = 0.02), SOD (14.8 +/- 2.9 to 20.7 +/- 5.8 U/mg of protein, P < 0.01), and GPx (20.3 +/- 3.4 to 23.0 +/- 3.1 U/mg of protein, P = 0.01)] were significantly increased. The level of LC was significantly positively correlated with the antioxidant enzymes activities (CAT, beta = 0.87, P = 0.02; SOD, beta = 0.72, P < 0.01).


    LC supplementation at a dose of 1000 mg/d was associated with a significant reduction in oxidative stress and an increase in antioxidant enzymes activities in CAD patients. CAD patients might benefit from using LC supplements to increase their anti-oxidation capacity.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Update: Another reason to avoid smoking …


    Niger J Surg. 2014 Jul;20(2):83-6.

    Association between use of tobacco and age on graying of hair.

    AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To determine the association between smoking, chewing tobacco (gutka), and age of individual on graying of hair.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: The present study was conducted on 120 patients attending the Outpatient Department of the DJ College of Dental Sciences and Research, Modinagar, UP. The individuals were classified into four groups (group I, II, III, IV) on the basis of the form of tobacco use (smoking or chewing). The Pearson correlation coefficient was utilized to find the correlation between the mean percentage of individuals with gray hair, risk multiplication factor (RMF), and age of the individual.

    RESULTS: Mean percentage of individual with gray hair and RMF (r = 0.6487) are found to be positively associated. A significant and positive correlation was observed between the age of the individual and the frequency of individuals with gray hair.

    CONCLUSION: This study suggests that there is a significant association between tobacco use and aging on graying of hair.

    Be well!


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