On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Can Kelp Help My Hair?

DEAR DR. BLONZ: My hair is thin and subject to frequent breakage. Someone suggested that taking Norwegian kelp will help. Will this remedy my symptoms and stimulate hair growth? What other natural products would you suggest? By the way, I’m African American, if that makes a difference. -- S.T., Tulsa, Oklahoma

DEAR S.T.: Kelp, a vegetable that grows in the sea, is primarily known for its iodine content. But it also contains lesser amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin K and several other nutrients. An ounce of kelp provides 100% of the recommended daily intake of iodine (150 micrograms), but not much more than 5% of the daily requirement of other nutrients.

Iodine is an essential mineral that plays a role in the manufacture of the thyroid hormones, the substances that help regulate the body’s metabolism. There may be some logic to your friend’s recommendation, because dry, coarse and breaking hair, and hair loss, are among the host of symptoms of inadequate thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism). However, that does not mean that adding kelp can represent a solution in your particular case. Today, it is rare for anyone eating a varied diet to suffer from an iodine deficiency.

Iodine is plentiful in the ocean, but it is not well-distributed on land. Foods with natural iodine are limited to seafoods, crops grown in coastal areas, and dairy or meat foods from animals that have grazed on feed containing iodine. Starting in 1924, iodine was added to table salt in the U.S.

One’s genetic background, certain health conditions and medications can all have a range of influences on how 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. Eggs provide many nutrients used in hair growth, and I would also suggest regular intakes of seafood and other sources of essential fatty acids. These are all regulars of healthful eating.

But keep in mind that regardless of what one eats, hair will always be affected by the products and treatments we use. A knowledgeable aesthetician or hairstylist might be able to recommend products well-suited to your particular situation.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.