People naturally produce catalase, an enzyme that prevents cell damage by scavenging hydrogen peroxide. This can result in slower aging as well as other age-related chronic conditions.
Recently, experts believe catalase can help reduce greying of hair, but what does science say about that claim?
In this article, we discuss what catalase is, its function, and what catalase supplementation can do for hair.
What is Catalase?
Catalase is a key enzyme found in the liver that reduces hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water. Hydrogen peroxide is toxic to humans as uncontrolled exposure can lead to accelerated aging, DNA damage, some cancers, and general inflammation.
Hydrogen peroxide has some important functions, especially regarding immunity, but we need catalase to ensure we don’t have too much of it at any given time.
Catalase as an Antioxidant
Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizing agent, which is why it used to be applied to wounds for disinfection and cleaning purposes. In fact, as mentioned earlier, we need hydrogen peroxide to activate our immune system and immune cells and fight off infections by rapidly oxidizing their cells.
However, because oxidation by itself is harmful, and the body doesn’t want to have too much of it, catalase essentially becomes among the essential antioxidants in the body. Catalase acts as a regulatory compound, ensuring hydrogen peroxide doesn’t harm the host.
Why People Take Catalase Supplements
Because catalase has been found to reduce oxidation, and since oxidation is linked with aging, supplementation has skyrocketed.
Among the many popular uses of catalase supplements are increasing lifespan or reducing symptoms of aging, disease protection (especially cancer), and prevention of inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even diabetes.
Catalase and Inflammation
Inflammation is considered the root of all diseases. Everything from sunburns and stomach aches to full-blown diabetes, and painful arthritis traces their roots in inflammation. This is why anti-inflammatory supplements like catalase are popular.
Several studies have noted having low levels of antioxidants like catalase can cause inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
Catalase and Cancer
The last thing anyone wants to get diagnosed with is cancer. Fortunately, advancements in medicine have enabled cancer to be mostly treatable and eventually let people have a full recovery. Despite these advancements, there is much more interest in taking supplements with anti-cancer activity, and catalase is one of them.
Catalase is an antioxidant by nature or at least works like one. This lets catalase protect cells from potential damage. In some studies, researchers report high catalase activity is linked to reduced tumor development, but only in mice.
Catalase for Lifespan and Aging
The biggest reason people buy catalase supplements is to slow down aging or improve longevity.
Research pointed out that experimental mice with higher catalase levels tended to live at least 20% longer than the control. They also noted how those with catalase deficiencies had shorter lifespans.
Catalase research shows supplementation may have the potential for cellular protection, which also positively “reinforces” organs that often weaken with age like the heart and lungs.
What Can Catalase Do for Hair?
Because catalase has been cited to help slow down signs of aging, it’s also a popular supplement for people who want to treat hair loss or hair greying - two symptoms associated with aging.
In a 2020 study, researchers experimented with azelaic acid to test how it performs against hair loss. Azelaic acid is used to treat common skin conditions such as acne and rosacea, but it possesses anti-inflammatory properties that may improve hair loss symptoms.
The researchers found out that azelaic acid promoted hair growth, and it was primarily throughcatalase activation. They also found that combining the acid with minoxidil, a medication used to treat hair loss, stimulated hair growth eight times more than just azelaic acid and two times more than minoxidil alone. These positive effects can be attributed to increased catalase activity.
- In another study, researchers found thatoxidative stress played a significant role in alopecia. This can mean catalase, an enzyme that doubles as an antioxidant, may have protective roles against hair loss.
More and more research suggestsa strong link between low catalase levels and hair greying. This is further supported when studies also note that grey hair follicles have high levels of hydrogen peroxide, the very compound catalase is supposed to reduce.
In a 2009 study, researchers found that oxidative stress produced byhydrogen peroxide weakened processes responsible for maintaining hair color. They concluded:
“our data feed the long-voiced, but insufficiently proven, concept of hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative damage in the entire human hair follicle, inclusive of the hair shaft, as a key element in senile hair graying…”
- Researchers in 2014 pointed out that pigmented hair follicles (those with heavy hair color) express “significant amounts of catalase protein and activity,” whereas unpigmented hair follicles suppress them. They also hypothesize that weak catalase activity “kills” melanocytes (a melanin-forming cell, responsible for hair and skin color), preventing pigmented hair from growing.
While that alone doesn’t make a case for catalase supplementation for hair greying, it does present an alternative avenue of hair greying treatment.
Based on what we found, the leading cause of premature hair loss and hair greying boils down to rapid hair cell oxidation. This means activities that negatively affect oxidation, such as smoking, excessive UV ray exposure, and low-nutrient diets (especially those devoid of antioxidants) all contribute to rapid hair loss and early greying of hair.
- A review in 2009 had the same conclusion, with the researcher making a case for antioxidant supplementation, especially with l-cysteine and l-methionine, to counteract the effects of oxidation-related hair loss and greying. Coincidentally, these two nutrients have been shown toaffect catalase levels positively.
We now know catalase activity is a significant factor in hair greying and loss. If you want to keep your hair thick and full or if you want to retain its natural, bright, or dark color, the best way is to keep catalase activities up.
Increase Your Catalase: Food and Supplements
Improving catalase levels doesn’t seem like a bad idea, especially if you don’t want to experience early signs of baldness/alopecia or premature graying.
Aside from dropping activities that lower catalase levels (such assmoking or overexposure to UV Rays), you can also promote an environment that sustains catalase levels through food and supplementation.
Dietary Sources of Catalase
The best foods for catalase are foods high in antioxidants. These include garlic and onions, and their “relatives,” as they were found to exhibithigh catalase activity during an experiment in 2007 involving water deprivation.
Cruciferous vegetables or your favorite super veggies likebroccoli, kale, and cabbage are naturally rich in catalase. Because the vegetables are conducive to catalase activity, eating them regularly also allows your body to produce more.
7 Best Natural Supplements for Catalase
While getting your nutrients from food is always a good idea (in fact, we think it’s the best), you can’t eat catalase-rich foods all the time. Whether from a supply or market price issue, getting catalase from food is not always a practical approach.
Fortunately for us, supplement science has progressed enough to make concentrated forms of substances that promote catalase activity.
Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric, the yellow spice that gives curry its signature color. The compound has been cited to be why turmeric is considered an all-around quality supplement, and it’s all due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
More than a generally good supplement to take, curcumin has also been found to elicit positive interactions with catalase.
A 2018 review cited how curcumin supplementation increases catalase activity. Below is the exact quote:
“Our study reinforced the hypothesis that curcumin can increase enzyme activity by affecting arrangements of amino acid residues in structural pocket of enzyme. Increase of distance between the residues of the bottleneck of narrow channel, which determines the amount of substrate entering the active site, facilitated the substrate access to the enzyme active site. This finding could be regarded as one of the possible reasons for the observed increased activity.
The explanation is a bit technical, but what curcumin basically does iswiden the “bottleneck” or the natural limit the body imposes on catalase production. Since curcumin effectively makes the supposed bottleneck wider, the body has more room to produce more catalase.
Does this mean taking curcumin is good for hair loss and hair greying? Well, some studies do seem to imply it.
- In a 2012 controlled trial, 87 men suffering from hair loss were asked to take a combination of curcumin and minoxidil. After six months, the men were shown to have slower hair loss and even increased hair growth compared to control subjects.
- Similarly,a 2019 study done on rats found curcumin exhibited similar hydrogen peroxide-reducing activity as catalase, which lets it have potential anti-hair greying effects.
Add that to the growing number of reasons why curcumin supplements are good for you.
If you’ve been around the supplement industry for a few years, you’ve likely come across a lot of articles saying CoQ10 is the next best thing since sliced bread, and they might actually have good points.
- CoQ10 is involved in quite a lot of everyday body processes, including heart health, energy metabolism, and optimal brain health.
- More importantly, a deficiency in CoQ10 is a common factor in heart problems, neurological disorders (Parkinson’s, Dementia, and “intellectual disability”), muscle contractions, vision loss, and more.
It goes without saying that being deficient in CoQ10 might also be a risk factor in aging, which plays into hair loss and hair greying.
Studies confirmthat CoQ10 supplementation can increase cellular energy and blood flow, supporting hair follicle nutrient demands. This powerful antioxidant has also been shown to stimulate genes responsible for different types of hair keratins, especially keratins that go down as we age.
“Subsequent statistical analysis revealed an increase in age-relevant hair keratins in human hair roots treated with coenzyme Q10, thus pointing out the striking benefits of coenzyme Q10 in hair care formulations. We conclude thatcoenzyme Q10 is an ideal ingredient for hair care formulations, providing anti-aging properties through activation of specific keratins aligned with the needs of mature hair.”
How exactly does CoQ10 promote hair growth and reduce hair greying?One study in 2006 speculates it does so by increasing catalase activity.
3. Vitamins A, E, C, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Vitamin A, E, and C are your everyday vitamins found in most foods and multivitamins. Omega 3 fatty acids, perhaps one of the most critical nutrients for growth, cardiovascular health, and brain development, are primarily found in fish but also recently in plants and even fungi.
Those nutrients are important for a lot of things that are happening inside our body, butthey’ve also been shown to work together when enhancing catalase activity,according to a 2015 study.
Biotin is one of the most popular hair supplements. You can find biotin in a lot of foods, but most get them through dairy products like eggs. One of the possible reasons it improves hair loss symptoms is how itincreases catalase activity.
5. Green Tea
It’s no secret that green tea is just good for you. Many studies praise it for its heart-healthy properties, fat-burning effects, how it has anti-aging benefits when consumed regularly. A few studies note that green tea intake may be strongly correlated withhigh catalase activity for its anti-aging effects.
Supplementing with cysteine might be helpful for hair growth. One trial published in the Journal of Applied Cosmetology suggested that50 weeks of cysteine supplementation led to increased hair growth.
Methionine supplementation can promote hair follicle development. Researchers pointed out that low levels of catalase and methionine in hair follicles are linked to methionine deficiency, which worsens as we age.
Methionine is one of the nine essential amino acids, with essential meaning we can’t produce our own. You can get methionine from animal sources such as tuna, shrimp, salmon, and beef. Plant-based sources include soybeans, tofu, and spirulina.
Do Catalase Enzyme Supplements Work?
There are supplements out there formulated with actual catalase enzymes, but we’re not entirely sure if it works. For instance, it needs to bypass our stomach’s digestive juices first, and it’s a pretty strong acid to go through.
- There have beenanimal studies that show positive effects on oxidative stress when directly injected with catalase supplements. However, the studies are inconclusive if not lacking, especially due to the lack of human trials.
- Human trials that do involve catalase enzymes don’t necessarily only test for the individual effects of the enzyme itself. The studies focus on how it works as part of a hair formulation or as part of a gut-health brand alongside other pro-hair health ingredients.
Catalase Supplement Dosage
There is no agreed-upon dose for catalase supplements. All catalase formulas are different, so finding the exact dosing range is like playing darts with a blindfold. However, most formulations contain upwards of 250 mg to about 500 mg per serving for the enzyme itself.
Our heyhair Catalase Supplement is 500mg of 20,000 Catalase unitsper serving.
Catalase activity is a major factor in hair growth and hair color. If you’re high on catalase, your hair is likely thick and full and vivid in color. In contrast, you can experience hair loss and premature hair greying if you lack catalase enzymes.
Boosting catalase activity can improve hair loss and premature hair greying. Whether you boost catalase from your diet or supplements, what matters is you’re taking nutrients that support catalase activity.