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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.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

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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8 Comments & Updates 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!


  3. JP Says:

    Update 04/24/15:


    J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015 Feb;72(2):321-7.

    Association of premature hair graying with family history, smoking, and obesity: a cross-sectional study.

    Many researchers have been concerned about the association of hair graying with systemic diseases. However, the common factors associated with hair graying and systemic diseases have not been elucidated.

    OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to identify risk factors for premature hair graying (PHG) in young men.

    METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study using questionnaires in young men. After a pilot study that included 1069 men, we surveyed 6390 men younger than 30 years about their gray hair status and various socioclinical characteristics.

    RESULTS: The age of participants in the main survey was 20.2 ± 1.3 years (mean ± SD). Of the 6390 participants, 1618 (25.3%) presented with PHG. Family history of PHG (odds ratio [OR], 12.82), obesity (OR, 2.61), and >5 pack-years history of smoking (OR, 1.61) were significantly associated with PHG. In the multivariate analysis, family history of PHG (OR, 2.63) and obesity (OR, 2.22) correlated with the severity of PHG.

    LIMITATIONS: Owing to the use of questionnaires, the possibility of recall bias exists. Women were not evaluated in this study.

    CONCLUSION: Smoking, family history of PHG, and obesity are important factors associated with PHG.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 11/02/15:


    J Invest Dermatol. 2015 May;135(5):1244-52.

    Oxidative stress-associated senescence in dermal papilla cells of men with androgenetic alopecia.

    Dermal papilla cells (DPCs) taken from male androgenetic alopecia (AGA) patients undergo premature senescence in vitro in association with the expression of p16(INK4a), suggesting that DPCs from balding scalp are more sensitive to environmental stress than nonbalding cells. As one of the major triggers of senescence in vitro stems from the cell “culture shock” owing to oxidative stress, we have further investigated the effects of oxidative stress on balding and occipital scalp DPCs. Patient-matched DPCs from balding and occipital scalp were cultured at atmospheric (21%) or physiologically normal (2%) O2. At 21% O2, DPCs showed flattened morphology and a significant reduction in mobility, population doubling, increased levels of reactive oxygen species and senescence-associated β-Gal activity, and increased expression of p16(INK4a) and pRB. Balding DPCs secreted higher levels of the negative hair growth regulators transforming growth factor beta 1 and 2 in response to H2O2 but not cell culture-associated oxidative stress. Balding DPCs had higher levels of catalase and total glutathione but appear to be less able to handle oxidative stress compared with occipital DPCs. These in vitro findings suggest that there may be a role for oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of AGA both in relation to cell senescence and migration but also secretion of known hair follicle inhibitory factors.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 02/24/16:


    Eplasty. 2016 Jan 25;16:e8.

    Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue.

    Objective: In this study, we evaluated the effect of scalp massage on hair in Japanese males and the effect of stretching forces on human dermal papilla cells in vitro.

    Methods: Nine healthy men received 4 minutes of standardized scalp massage per day for 24 weeks using a scalp massage device. Total hair number, hair thickness, and hair growth rate were evaluated. The mechanical effect of scalp massage on subcutaneous tissue was analyzed using a finite element method. To evaluate the effect of mechanical forces, human dermal papilla cells were cultured using a 72-hour stretching cycle. Gene expression change was analyzed using DNA microarray analyses. In addition, expression of hair cycle-related genes including IL6, NOGGIN, BMP4, and SMAD4 were evaluated using real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.

    Results: Standardized scalp massage resulted in increased hair thickness 24 weeks after initiation of massage (0.085 ± 0.003 mm vs 0.092 ± 0.001 mm). Finite element method showed that scalp massage caused z-direction displacement and von Mises stress on subcutaneous tissue. In vitro, DNA microarray showed gene expression change significantly compared with nonstretching human dermal papilla cells. A total of 2655 genes were upregulated and 2823 genes were downregulated. Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction demonstrated increased expression of hair cycle-related genes such as NOGGIN, BMP4, SMAD4, and IL6ST and decrease in hair loss-related genes such as IL6.

    Conclusions: Stretching forces result in changes in gene expression in human dermal papilla cells. Standardized scalp massage is a way to transmit mechanical stress to human dermal papilla cells in subcutaneous tissue. Hair thickness was shown to increase with standardized scalp massage.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 04/19/16:


    Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:1340903.

    The Influence of Probiotic Lactobacillus casei in Combination with Prebiotic Inulin on the Antioxidant Capacity of Human Plasma.

    The aim of the present study was to assess whether probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus casei (4 × 10(8) CFU) influences the antioxidant properties of human plasma when combined with prebiotic Inulin (400 mg). Experiments were carried out on healthy volunteers (n = 32). Volunteers were divided according to sex (16 male and 16 female) and randomly assigned to synbiotic and control groups. Blood samples were collected before synbiotic supplementation and after 7 weeks, at the end of the study. Catalase (CAT), superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity, and the ferric reducing ability of plasma (FRAP) in human plasma were examined. The administration of synbiotics containing L. casei plus Inulin resulted in a significant increase in FRAP values (p = 0.00008) and CAT activity (p = 0.02) and an insignificant increase in SOD and GPx activity compared to controls. Synbiotics containing L. casei (4 × 10(8) CFU) with prebiotic Inulin (400 mg) may have a positive influence on human plasma antioxidant capacity and the activity of selected antioxidant enzymes.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 05/19/16:


    Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:651048.

    Mechanistic Studies on the Use of Polygonum multiflorum for the Treatment of Hair Graying.

    Polygonum multiflorum is a traditional Chinese medicine with a long history in hair growth promotion and hair blackening. The purpose of the study was to examine the effect and the mechanism of Polygonum multiflorum in hair blackening. C57BL/6 mice hair fade was induced with H2O2 and used in this research. Hair pigmentogenesis promotion activities of Polygonum Multiflorum Radix (PMR, raw crude drug), Polygonum Multiflorum Radix Preparata (PMRP, processed crude drug), and their major chemical constituent TSG were investigated. The regulation effects of several cytokines and enzymes such as POMC, α-MSH, MC1R, ASIP, MITF, TYR, TRP-1, and TRP-2 were investigated. PMR group gave out the most outstanding black hair among all groups with the highest contents of total melanin, α-MSH, MC1R, and TYR. Promotion of hair pigmentogenesis was slightly decreased after processing in the PMRP group. TSG as the major constituent of PMR showed weaker hair color regulation effects than both PMR and PMRP. PMR, but not PMRP, should be used to blacken hair. The α-MSH, MC1R, and TYR were the major targets in the medicinal use of PMR in hair graying. Chemical constituents other than TSG may contribute to the hair color regulation activity of PMR.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 07/20/16:


    Pediatr Dermatol. 2016 Jul;33(4):438-42.

    Risk Factors for Premature Hair Graying in Young Turkish Adults.

    BACKGROUND: Premature hair graying (PHG) is a common condition resulting in loss of self-esteem. Studies investigating PHG risk factors for both sexes with a large number of patients are scarce. We sought to investigate the socioclinical risk factors for PHG in young Turkish men and women and the differences between the sexes.

    METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted in 1,119 participants who answered a survey about PHG and some socioclinical characteristics between February and July 2015. The number of gray hairs, onset age of hair graying, and family history of PHG were asked about, as well as demographic characteristics, anthropometric measures, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, sports life, diet, medical history, educational status, occupation, marital status, monthly income, and Fitzpatrick skin type.

    RESULTS: Of 1,119 participants, 315 (28.1%) had PHG and 804 did not. Maternal and paternal PHG, alcohol consumption, presence of chronic disease, educational status, hair loss, perceived stress scale (PSS) score, age, and height were significantly higher in subjects with PHG. Rates of maternal and paternal PHG were high in women with PHG, and the rate of paternal PHG was high in men with PHG. According to the multivariate ordinal regression analysis, PSS score, age, hair loss, and family history of PHG were correlated with the severity of PHG.

    CONCLUSION: PHG is closely related to factors causing oxidative stress, such as emotional stress, alcohol consumption, and chronic diseases in genetically predisposed men and women.

    Be well!


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