A pill which contains glucosamine, a natural supplement found in shark cartilage has been found to promote hair growth.
BUCKS Fizz star Cheryl Baker has successfully treated a problem that affects many women, but which very few speak about. The Eurovision Song Contest winner always suffered from having somewhat less-than-lush hair. But when what hair she had started coming out in clumps in her hands as she washed or brushed it, she decided she needed to take swift action.
At first Cheryl thought that over-the-counter products such as sprays, creams and mousses might work. But when her hair kept falling out, she turned to a supplement made from shark cartilage.
‘A friend suggested I needed to take a dietary supplement to prevent the hair loss,’ she says.
‘The pills, Nourkrin, were quite expensive — £50 a month — and when not much had happened after the first month, I wondered whether shelling out for another month’s supply was a wise investment.
‘But I was told that it might take two to three months before I got a result and so I paid another £50 and prayed I would see an improvement. By the end of the second month, my hair had stopped coming out and was starting to grow again. Over the next few months it continued to grow and there was no more hair loss.’
Hair loss for men is not as big an emotional problem as it is for women. Many men take it in their stride, but for women it can be a major issue, affecting their feeling of femininity.
And while few women actually go bald, many find that hormonal changes can cause them to suffer from hair thinning and loss.
Cheryl, 50, is not alone. Research shows that up to two-thirds of women experience hair loss at some stage of their lives.
WOMEN often experience it for the first time two or three months after giving birth. The massive production of oestrogen during pregnancy puts hair follicles into their ‘growth phase’.
After the birth, the hormonal balance is restored and the hair follicles go into their ‘loss phase’, causing hair to fall out.
Similar problems can occur during the menopause or through stress. The contraceptive pill can also cause problems.
Cheryl says she now has her best head of hair ever: ‘Bucks Fizz are about to do a tour, and I was desperate to look my best. Taking the supplements has helped. People have noticed that my hair looks better and the improvement has boosted my confidence.’
Cheryl took a supplement that contains a mixture of shark cartilage, the mineral silica and vitamin C.
The most important ingredient in the pill is shark cartilage, which contains glucosamine, a naturally occurring supplement which stimulates the growth of new tissue. Trials have shown that it stimulates dormant hair follicles.
A study published in the International Journal of Medical Research showed a 38 per cent increase in new hair growth in 95per cent of patients taking Nourkrin over a six-month period.
The pills’ other ingredients — Vitamin C and silica — found in green vegetables — are thought to help stimulate hair growth.
Professor Jan Wadstein, a hair expert at Sweden’s Lund University, says there have been numerous studies on shark cartilage for hair loss: ‘There is no doubt it has a significant effect on hair growth.
‘You need to take it for six months and then you get a good, positive effect. After this, you continue to take a lower, maintenance dose to prevent further hair loss.
‘The results aren’t 100 per cent; far from it. But I would say you get about a 50 per cent improvement when you take supplements with shark cartilage.
‘For a lot of patients, that is a difference they can see and feel when they run their hands through their hair.’
Cheryl lives in Sevenoaks, Kent, with her husband, Steve, a guitarist in Cliff Richard’s backing group. She first suffered hair loss shortly after the birth of her twins ten years ago when she was 40.
‘I knew it was hormonal and didn’t panic, even though my hair was coming out in my hands.
‘After a few weeks it stopped happening and my hair grew back,
but it was still pretty thin. Then, when I started going through the menopause two years ago, my hair started falling out again.
‘Finding the supplement has been a blessing. I’ve spent my life trying to make my hair look more luxuriant but now, at last, it feels and looks as if it has real body.
‘Although I’ve finished the treat-ment, I still take a regular dose to keep my hair well supplied with nutrients.’
SURVEYS in Britain and the U.S. suggest that up to 4.8 million women suffer some degree of hair loss, which can be reversed with a change in diet, according to Harley Street hair specialist Dr Hugh Rushton.
He maintains that some women’s hair loss problems are due to low iron levels because of a drop in meat consumption.
Almost 90 per cent of women eat less iron than recommended. But the most recent figures on the problem are six years old, so things are likely to have got worse since the BSE crisis.
Iron levels in young women become depleted due to losing blood during menstruation, but this is aggravated by a diet containing little or no red meat.
As well as iron, meat contains the amino acid Llysine, which helps the body absorb iron.
Dr Rushton says hair loss drives some women to despair. ‘It devastates their lives because they know their hair is getting thinner. They can become clinically depressed.
‘It’s so upsetting that many women are put on anti-depressants or tranquillisers because of hair loss. Their self-esteem is dramatically affected, as is their quality of life, and they don’t always know where to turn.’
However, Tony Chu, Consultant Dermatologist at Harm-mersmith Hospital is not convinced.
‘Female hair loss can be down to iron deficieny or problems with the thyroid gland, and it is unlikely that any ingredients in the shark cartilage would help that,’ he says.
ï FOR information on the Nourkrin Hair Recovery Programme, which costs £49.95 a month, see your pharmacist or call 0845 3990022.
BOB MONKHOUSE TOOK IT TO FIGHT CANCER
SHARK cartilage contains glucosamine, a naturally-occurring substance found in human tissue. Glucosamine has been shown to build up cartilage, reducing wear and tear and bringing pain relief, and is commonly used in supplements for treating joint pain and arthritis.
In one trial, British scientists discovered that shark cartilage actually boosted cartilage in the spine, causing people to grow taller. The use of shark cartilage to treat cancer has attracted considerable controversy. The scientific basis for its use is that sharks rarely get cancer,
and thousands of sufferers started taking shark cartilage capsules after a book, Sharks Don’t Get Cancer, was published in 1990. But in 2000 research showed they doget cancers, including in the cartilage.
The late Bob Monkhouse, who fought prostate cancer, turned to pills made from shark cartilage, but lost his battle against cancer in December last year. A series of reports in the New England Journal Of Medicine on the dangers of alternative remedies featured a nine-year-old girl with a brain tumour who died after she was treated with shark cartilage instead of chemotherapy. Although there has been no absolute proof, supporters of shark cartilage maintain it starves tumours of their blood supply, causing them to shrink. Shark cartilage also contains high levels of proteins, vitamins and minerals, and a type of proteoglycan, which is a natural joint lubricant. Taking supplements helps to boost cartilage, which acts as a cushion between joints in various parts of the body, stopping them rubbing together. Doctors have created an artificial skin, which is used in place of a skin graft, acting as scaffolding while new skin grows from the bottom up. The skin contains shark cartilage and collagen taken from cows.