There are a few ways to answer the question, “Does folic acid help hair growth?” You could get a scientific answer from actual studies done. You could speak with doctors and ask for their observations of their patients with hair loss that may have been treated with folic acid. From there you could listen to the final deduction of whether or not folic acid stimulated hair growth from the doctor – or make your own deductions.
If you’re interested in this answer for your own personal case, you could ask your doctor to order lab tests that might uncover a folic acid deficiency, and then supplement when the level is found to be low. You would wait a few months for the results and then gauge your progress.
The Studies on Folic Acid and Hair Loss
Vitamins and minerals can never make you into a superhuman with super long hair if all your levels of these nutrients are in the optimal range. This is why vitamins and minerals won’t be the answer in 100% of the cases of those with hair loss.
However, if you have a deficiency, increasing the levels of that nutrient can be of immense help. Each vitamin and mineral has certain symptoms that will appear in the body when there’s a deficiency. Hair loss is one of the known symptoms for several nutrient deficiencies. Specificially, there are certain vitamins and minerals related to the growth and maturation of the hair follicles, and folic acid is one of them.
The most scientific answer to the question, does folic acid help hair growth, would involve citing actual studies on the topic. The best design of these studies would show that those who have a deficiency and are supplemented with folic acid have new hair growth. It might even be a randomized, double blind study, but actually that seems like far too many restrictions in a study when hair growth is obvious – either it’s there or it’s not. It is difficult for someone to believe themselves into having more hair! It’s surprising but well-designed studies in humans showing a folic acid deficiency and then what happened with supplementation (and hair loss) are rare to find.
Many nutrition deficiencies are discovered in humans from animal studies. With folic acid, studies in calves and squirrels give us clues to the question, does folic acid help hair growth? In one study at the Ontario Veterinary College in Canada, a three-month old calf had hair loss and brown patches on its skin, a folic acid deficiency. Supplements resolved the condition and regrew the hair within two months. (Vet Rec, 1988, Nov 19;123(21):533-6.)
Squirrel monkeys given a folic acid deficient diet developed dermatitis, hair loss, anemia, diarrhea, rapid weight loss, dehydration and sometimes death.
Sheep farmers agree that how long the hair grows and the diameter of each hair/fiber depends on the nutrients the animal consumes. Folic acid, copper, zinc, and vitamin B6 are especially important. (J Anim Sci 1994 Jul;72(7);1899-907.)
What are the Deficiency Symptoms in Humans?
Folic acid deficiency symptoms include fatigue, hair loss, gray hair, anemia, depression, irritability, cracks and sores in the corners of the mouth and on the lips, vision changes, and high homocysteine levels. A urine test can look for a substance called FIGlu (forminioglutamic acid), which gives a doctor an indication of how folic acid is being used in the body. Folic acid deficiency, like other deficiencies can lead to death, so if you discover you have a deficiency, get it treated. Don’t just pass it off, thinking it will resolve on its own.
Every vitamin and mineral has specific functions it does in the body. Folic acid is important for the synthesis of new proteins in the body and the growth of tissue and red blood cells and hair. If there’s a deficiency, then the number of hairs growing on the head is slowed down and after awhile, the hair isn’t as thick or as strong as it should be. It won’t grow long either.
Deficiencies Found in Those Who Take an Anti-Folic Acid Medication
One of the observations that gives us clues to the question, “Does folic acid help hair growth?” is what happens when people are taking the drug called methotrexate. This is a prescription medication given to those with serious cases of psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. The drug causes a known folic acid deficiency. Before long, many patients will experience hair loss, anemia, high homocysteine levels and a host of other symptoms. Doctors then test patients with symptoms for low levels of folic acid, and often find it.
Correcting a Deficiency That is Causing Hair Loss
It’s always best to work with a nutritionist and/or your physician when you have a deficiency of any kind. This is because nutrients influence each other, and a deficiency of one nutrient is rarely found. Deficiencies come in groups because nutrients in the body work together.
When a folic acid deficiency is found, you can change your diet to start adding more foods that contain the vitamin. To make up for a deficiency, you would have to eat a lot more of the foods high in folic acid. For example, if the estimated daily value is 400 mcg folic acid, you’ll have to eat a lot more to correct for the deficiency – and do it daily for at least three months. For example, 4 cups of spinach will provide 400 mcg folic acid, but that won’t make up for a deficiency and give you enough to grow back your original lovely locks. You might need four or five times that amount! Supplements are the best solution.
Liver and green leafy vegetables are the highest sources of folic acid, so incorporating these in your diet is best, but don’t neglect the instructions of your doctor/nutritionist to take the folic acid supplements.
If you do have a deficiency, give yourself three months before you have your answer to the question, does folic acid help hair growth?