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Zinc for alopecia?

Am trying to help my nephew's 10 year old son, who is developing a severe case of alopecia.   started as dime size spots on his scalp and now appears to be heading towards total hair loss.   he has had this progressive condition for about a year.  parents have seen doctors/dermatologist but I do not know the details yet of what they found out via testing or what professional guidance they were given.  The boy was not given meds or supplements or put on a special diet which suggests no hormonal issues or deficiencies were found.

In doing a search of professional publications I came across one 2012 study:
"Oral Zinc Sulphate in Treatment of Alopecia Areata (Double Blind; Cross-Over Study)   Khalifa E Sharquie1*, Adil A Noaimi1 and Emad R Shwail2

In this case 5mg/kg per day in divided doses was used for several months and the success rate was over 50%.  

I have seen quite a few other studies which suggest zinc has a role in hair loss, especially in the case of zinc deficiency.

The RDA for zinc for a child of 10 is 8mg/d.     the dosage of elemental zinc, given the amount in the study above, would equate to about 60 mg of zinc per day for a 70 pound child.

Would trying zinc (in the form of zinc sulfate or some other form) be advisable given that there is literature to suggest is works for some patients, and if so, is there an upper safe daily limit of zinc (as elemental zinc) you would suggest?

thank you.
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563773 tn?1374250139
Thanks for posting your query.

I can understand your concern for the unexplained hair loss that your nephew’s son is having.

It is true that deficiency of zinc can cause hair loss. Zinc deficiency is characterized by growth retardation, loss of appetite, and impaired immune function. In more severe cases, zinc deficiency causes hair loss, diarrhea, delayed sexual maturation, impotence, hypogonadism in males, and eye and skin lesions. But in America, overt zinc deficiency is uncommon and when found it is more commonly found in pregnancy and lactation, vegetarians, patients with gastrointestinal diseases, older infants who are exclusively breastfed(more than 1 year of age), alcoholics and people with sickle cell disease.

It is very uncommon for a child eating well balanced food to have any zinc deficiency. A child should get his daily dose of zinc from nutritious food sources. One should not give a child a zinc supplement without speaking with his doctor first because it could cause dangerous side effects. Acute adverse effects of high zinc intake include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and headaches. It can cause zinc toxicity as well.

The RDA for zinc for a child of 10 is 8mg/d.  Tolerable zinc levels for a child in the age group 9-13 years is 23 mg/ day. Hence giving 60 mg to a child is not recommended at all. It may cause dangerous zinc toxicity. It might also cause the child's body to become unable to use iron properly and can result in decreased copper levels as well. Hence your nephew’s son should get the zinc from his diet rather than zinc supplements without confirming his zinc levels in the body. Moreover one study has reported that taking zinc supplements is ineffective for hair loss if hair loss is the only presenting symptom with no other associated symptoms.

Levels of zinc either in plasma or serum are not reliable indicators for establishing a diagnosis of zinc deficiency. Hence it has been suggested that the zinc-copper ratio may be used as an index of zinc levels. The concentration of zinc in hair is a more reliable indicator of chronic zinc deficiency. Hence you can get these tests done for the child.

In the meanwhile he should eat a diet rich in zinc which consist more of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Beef, pork, chicken and fish are among the top food sources of zinc.

Hope that this information helps and hope that you get better soon.

Wishing you good health.

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