What Causes Gray Hair? Fight or Flight Stress Does, Say Scientists

For many years, people have believed that stress and worry can cause gray hair and the thinning of hair. While some people have been able to observe this in others and in their selves, science hadn’t been able to prove it until now. Researchers have done a study that shows that stress may actually cause premature gray hair.

What Causes Gray Hair?

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have done a study on adrenaline, or the “fight or flight” chemical response to stress, and their results seem to indicate that stress does indeed cause gray hair.

The researchers gave laboratory mice artificial adrenaline in the form of isoproterenol. The mice were given the adrenaline-like salt solution for four weeks, in order to simulate the effect of long-term stress.

They found that the mice had drastically low levels of p53, a protein that is known to help fight cancer. When cells are damaged, the p53 protein begins to work and damaged cells are either repaired, or destroyed. This prevents damaged DNA from becoming cancerous later on.

The lack of p53 leads to more damaged cells. This increases the risk for cancer, as well as being a possible cause for gray hair. This is because damaged DNA can affect the type of pigment that hair produces

Professor Robert Lefkowitz was the lead in the study. Lefkowitz says, “This could give us a plausible explanation of how chronic stress may lead to a variety of human conditions and disorders, which range from merely cosmetic, like graying hair, to life-threatening disorders like malignancies.”

The research area is just beginning its beginning stages, but the scientists believe that more study can lead them to a better understanding on how stress affects DNA. In the future, newly created drugs may actually counter premature gray hair.

Don’t Want to Cause Gray Hair? Try Winding Down

With many people feeling stressed, a popular form of stress relief has become mindfulness training. This simple exercise can be done anywhere and only requires 3-5 minutes a day.

A person would find a comfortable place to sit that allows them to sit upright. For example, a chair would be a good starting point. A person then begins to focus on the sensations in their body and their breathing. A person breathes in, and they mindfully watch that in breath, and they repeat the same thing with their out breathe.

Some people also find that closing their eyes can enhance their mindfulness. Mindfully watching the breath can be done for 3-5 minute stretches everyday and can help support both the well being of the mind and body.


What Causes Gray Hair: Fight or Flight Effect and Stress

What Causes Gray Hair: Mice and Adrenaline

What Causes Gray Hair: Counteract Stress With Mindfulness Training

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