What makes hair turn gray?

March 5, 2009 3:32:38 PM PST
It is a mystery that's baffled mankind for ages. What causes hair to turn gray? Researchers in Germany say they've uncovered some answers. We've always passed it off as heredity, genetics. But thanks to the new findings, gray hair may someday become more of a choice.

The researchers found a chemical that they say makes the gray hair happen. And stress, which unleashes hydrogen peroxide, is the culprit that the chemical going.

"The study showed the mechanism by which gray hair occurs," said Dr. Ted Suh, of the Cleveland Clinic. "It's mediated by a chemical called hydrogen peroxide. It's produced by the body during times of stress."

Yes, the same chemical we've been putting in our hair for decades lighten it is responsible for going gray.

Hydrogen peroxide occurs naturally in hair follicle cells. It turns out that stress and wear and tear lower an enzyme called catalase. That lowering of the enzyme allows the naturally occuring hydrogen peroxide to do what it likes to do, turn hair light and gray.

It is stress and wear and tear working over time, or sometimes maybe faster.

President Obama's barber has revealed that the president is indeed going gray, even after just 44 days on the job.

President Bush said it wasn't being president that had turned his hair gray, he blamed his teenage daughters.

But in fairness, before we blame the children for making our heads hydrogen peroxide-friendly, don't forget our grandparents.

"Another factor that is involved is genetics," Dr. Suh said. "People may be more prone to developing gray as they get older, but clearly a modifying factor is the stress that people are experience. And that's certainly something that could be modified and controlled."

So we inherit our susceptibility. The researchers findings contribute to the understanding of how we age, in general. From the White House also comes word that the president is not worried about any gray hairs.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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