On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

IODINE AN UNCERTAIN HAIR-GROWTH FACTOR

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I am in high school, and want to put on weight so I can play football. I recently shot up a number of inches in height, but my weight proportion has not kept up. I have always been in the backfield, and now I lift weights four mornings a week and take physical conditioning. I have been eating and eating but it does not seem to help me bulk up the way I would like. Could you recommend a supplement? -- F.F., Chicago

DEAR F.F.: There is a limit to what one can do, as growth in height does not always parallel the increase in weight. Then there is the overriding influence of one's genetic predisposition. If most of your family members are tall and thin, it will lessen the odds of you becoming a 250-pound running back. This is not to say you are without any remedies, but they might not provide the exact results you hope for.

A well-balanced diet, along with weight-lifting and conditioning programs, are important adjuncts to any weight-gain program. If you wanted to gain one pound a week, this would involve taking in 500 calories a day above your normal caloric intake. There are weight-gain milkshake products that can help accomplish this, but be advised that studies have found that the body does not always gain as expected. You are not the first to face this dilemma. Remaining athletic might mean playing a different position, or even a different sport, that fits your new body type.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I am a woman, and my hair is thin and subject to frequent breakage. Someone suggested Norwegian kelp. Will this nutrient remedy my symptoms and stimulate hair growth? -- T.T., San Diego

DEAR T.T.: Kelp, a vegetable that grows in the sea, is touted primarily for its iodine content, but it also contains potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium. Iodine is an essential mineral that plays a role in the manufacture of the thyroid hormones that help regulate the body's metabolism. Dry, coarse, breaking hair and hair loss are among the symptoms of inadequate thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), so perhaps that was the connection that your adviser was thinking of.

It is unclear whether kelp is the answer to your problem. Iodine is plentiful in the ocean but is not well-distributed on land. Foods containing iodine are limited to seafoods, crops grown in coastal areas, and dairy or meats from animals that have grazed on feed containing iodine. The Daily Value for iodine is 150 micrograms -- a trace amount. It's rare for anyone eating a varied diet today to suffer from an iodine deficiency.

One's genetic background, certain health conditions and medications can all have a range of influences on how the hair looks and behaves. The quality of your diet is also a player. I would take a look at what you have been eating and aim for a good mix of fruits, greens and grains as these provide the essential vitamins and minerals. I would also have a regular intake of seafood, or other sources of essential fatty acids. But irrespective of what one eats, the hair will always be greatly influenced by environmental factors and the hair products and treatments one uses. A knowledgeable hairstylist might be able to recommend products well-suited to your particular situation.

Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.