Blackstrap molasses is the dark, viscous molasses that remains after maximum extraction of sugar from raw sugar cane. It has the consistency of a thick syrup, as the third boiling of sugar syrup yields blackstrap molasses. This concentrated byproduct is left over after the sugar’s sucrose has been crystallized. It has a robust flavor described as bittersweet. Unlike refined sugar, blackstrap molasses contains essential vitamins and minerals — boasting a number of powerful health benefits.
As the nutritional benefits of blackstrap molasses becomes better known, more and more molasses products are being sold in the supermarket. As opposed to refined sugar, molasses has the power to naturally relieve PMS symptoms, stabilize blood sugar levels, improve bone health, treat symptoms of ADHD and boost skin health.
Blackstrap Molasses Nutrition Facts
Blackstrap molasses contains the vitamins and minerals that it absorbs from the sugar cane plant. Molasses has a moderate glycemic load of 55, which makes it a better choice than refined sugar, especially for people with diabetes. It contains high levels of vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium.
- 290 calories
- zero fat
- zero cholesterol
- 37 milligrams sodium
- 75 grams carbohydrate
- zero dietary fiber
- 55 grams sugar
- zero protein
- 0.7 vitamin B6 (34 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligrams pantothenic acid (8 percent DV)
- 0.9 milligrams niacin (5 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams thiamine (3 percent DV)
- 1.5 milligrams manganese (77 percent DV)
- 242 milligrams magnesium (61 percent DV)
- 1,464 milligrams potassium (42 percent DV)
- 4.7 milligrams iron (26 percent DV)
- 17 micrograms selenium (25 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligrams copper (24 percent DV)
- 205 milligrams calcium (20 percent DV)
- 31 milligrams phosphorus (3 percent DV)
- 37 milligrams sodium (2 percent DV)
9 Blackstrap Molasses Benefits
1. Relieves PMS Symptoms
Blackstrap molasses is a high source of iron; women need more iron than men, according to the Centers for Disease Control, because they lose a certain amount of iron during their normal menstrual cycle each month. Starting at around the time of adolescence when a woman begins having her menstrual cycle, her daily needs of iron increases, but then the level decreases once again as the woman reaches menopause.
Iron can also improve your mood, which relies on a balance of hormones — including serotonin, dopamine and other vital hormones — that cannot properly be synthesized in the brain when oxygen levels are low. This is why iron deficiency sometimes results in a poor mood, bad sleep, low energy levels and a lack of motivation. If you notice changes in your mood and feelings of mild depression or anxiety, especially during menstruation, an iron deficiency could possibly be a contributor.
Also, essential minerals in blackstrap molasses, such as magnesium, manganese and calcium, prevent the clotting of blood, which relieves menstrual cramps and maintains the health of uterine muscles.
2. Combats Stress
B vitamins, calcium and magnesium each play a role in combatting stress and anxiety, and blackstrap molasses contains all these vital minerals. Vitamin B6, for example, raises serotonin levels in the brain. This is an important hormone that controls mood and prevents pain, depression and fatigue, and blackstrap molasses’ vitamin B6 content makes adding it to your diet a great way to bust stress.
A 2004 study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that low levels of vitamin B6 causes depression, as the vitamin contributes to the tryptophan-serotonin pathway. Of the 140 participants, 13 percent of them were evaluated as depressed and vitamin B6-deficient. Although this is not a staggering number, the research suggests that the vitamin deficiency is correlated to depression levels and needs to be addressed in patients who have symptoms of moodiness and depression.
3. Stabilizes Blood Sugar Levels
Blackstrap molasses helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which can be extremely beneficial for people with diabetes. It has a low glycemic index and naturally slows the metabolism of glucose and carbohydrates — resulting in less insulin production. Blackstrap molasses also contains a high level of chromium, which increases glucose tolerance. Chromium plays a role in the insulin-signaling pathways that allow our bodies to control the amount of sugar we take in, helping balance blood glucose levels and giving us stable energy.
A 1997 study conducted at the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that chromium is an essential nutrient involved in normal carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. In the study, 180 individuals being treated with type 2 diabetes were either given a placebo or chromium supplements over a four-month period, while continuing to take normal medications and not changing eating habits. As a result of chromium treatment, insulin values and cholesterol levels decreased significantly compared to the placebo group.
This study did have patients continue their normal medications for treatment diabetes, so it is important to note that chromium consumption seems to be only partly responsible for the positive results.
4. Helps Prevent Cancer
A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Diabetic Association suggests that blackstrap molasses serves as a nutritious alternative to refined sugar because it offers the potential benefit of antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are substances that help prevent certain types of cell damage, especially those caused by oxidation. Oxidative damage plays a major role in disease today and has been linked to health conditions including cancer.
High-antioxidant foods, like blackstrap molasses, help reduce free radicals in the body, which are believed to be the primary cause of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, free radicals are formed naturally in the body and play an important role in many normal cellular processes; however, at high concentrations, free radicals can be hazardous to the body and damage all major components of cells, including DNA, proteins and cell membranes.
5. Promotes Skin Health
Blackstrap molasses contains lactic acid, which is produced by bacteria that plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism. Lactic acid serves as a natural acne treatment and heals other skin conditions.
A 2002 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology found that lactic acid worked as a preventative solution for acne. The study involved 22 patients who experienced lesions, inflammation and cysts. Lactate lotion was used topically all over the face twice a day, and then it was used like a cosmetic for a year. At the end of one year, 90 percent to 100 percent reduction of the inflammatory lesions was achieved in 41 percent of the patients, and non-inflammatory lesions reduced in 23 percent of the patients. The remaining patients showed 50 percent to 90 percent reduction, while two patients showed less than 50 percent reduction in the non-inflammatory lesions.
This research suggests that lactic acid treatment results in significant reduction of acne symptoms, including the development of lesions.
Blackstrap molasses also promotes the growth of healthy tissues, so it serves as a natural wound healer. Consuming blackstrap molasses accelerates the healing time of cuts, wounds, burns and signs of acne — helping you maintain clear and healthy skin.
6. Improves Bone Health
Because blackstrap molasses serves as a high source of calcium, it promotes strong and healthy bones. Since we lose calcium every day through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and stool, and we cannot make it within our own body, it’s important that we eat calcium-rich foods regularly.
Calcium is the most present mineral in the body, stored in the body mostly in the bones and teeth. About 99 percent of our calcium is found in bones and teeth, mostly in the form of calcium deposits, with the other remaining 1 percent being stored throughout bodily tissue. Calcium is involved in the growth and maintenance of bones. Without enough calcium present in the body, known as a calcium deficiency, bones are susceptible to becoming weak and pliable, making them prone to fractures and breaks.
The calcium, plus the iron and copper levels, in blackstrap molasses undoubtedly improves bone health, helps heal broken bones, and reduces the risk of weak and brittle bones.
7. Serves as Natural Remedy for ADD and ADHD
Research has shown that the same symptoms evident in children with ADD/ADHD are also seen in people who are nutritionally deficient in zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron. ADHD and ADD are neurological and behavior-related conditions that cause difficulty in concentrating, impulsiveness and excessive energy. Individuals with ADHD not only have a challenge in concentrating, but have a challenge sitting still.
Sugar is a major problem because it causes blood-sugar spikes, causing hyperactivity. Then as blood-sugar levels spike down, a person loses focus. Blackstrap molasses is a more nutritious alternative to refined sugar, and it does not have the same effects on blood-sugar levels. Also, consuming molasses provides iron and B vitamins — which have the ability to remedy ADHD naturally. These vitamins and minerals support the nervous system and brain function, improving focus.
8. Treats Arthritis
Arthritis is a joint disease that causes swelling and pain in the joints. It’s either classified as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage between joints wears down, causing inflammation and pain, and rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune dysfunction where the white blood cells destroy the cartilage. Because of the anti-inflammatory properties in blackstrap molasses, it relieves swelling and joint pain, working as a natural arthritis treatment.
9. Contains Cholesterol-Lowing Potassium
Just two teaspoons of this, rich all-natural syrup contains 10 percent of the daily recommended amount of potassium. Potassium-rich foods help lower systolic blood pressure, lower cholesterol and support a healthy cardiovascular system, in addition to helping cleanse your liver. Potassium also plays an important role in keeping the body hydrated and works with sodium to support cellular function with your body’s sodium-potassium pump.
Blackstrap Molasses History & Interesting Facts
Blackstrap molasses has been imported from the Caribbean Islands since the time of the first settlers. Because it was much more affordable than refined sugar, molasses was popular up until the late 19th century. In fact, molasses was so popular that the British crown passed the Molasses Act of 1733 in order to discourage colonists from trading with the West Indies, which was not under British rule. Colonists had to pay six pence for every gallon of molasses, which was commonly used in rum and spirits at the time.
The growing corruption of local officials and the bitterness and resentment of British Law that was caused by this act only continued with the passing of the Stamp and Townshend Acts; by 1776, the colonists were fighting for their independence from British rule during the American Revolution.
Since then, blackstrap molasses has made a comeback. This is due to the “health food movement” that is popularizing nutritious and vitamin-filled foods. The largest producers of molasses are currently India, Brazil, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and the United States.
How to Use Blackstrap Molasses
It’s easy to find blackstrap molasses at your local market or health food store. When purchasing blackstrap molasses, look for products that are organic and unsulfered.
Blackstrap molasses is commonly used as a natural sweetener and sugar alternative. Molasses has a unique, rich flavor. Some people use it as a spread or topping on toast, oatmeal and porridges. It’s also a great sweetener for marinades, barbeque sauce and to use while baking. You can even add blackstrap molasses to coffee — it intensifies the richness of the coffee while lowering the acidic taste and enhancing coffee’s nutrition value.
Blackstrap molasses serves as a brown sugar alternative, too; you can use molasses to create brown sugar by adding two tablespoons of molasses for each ½ cup of coconut sugar that a recipe calls for. Put the coconut sugar and the molasses in a food processor, and pulse until the consistency of commercial brown sugar is reached. The result is a more nutritious “brown sugar” that still tastes great.
Blackstrap molasses is about two-thirds as sweet as refined sugar, but it can be used in recipes that call for brown sugar, honey and maple syrup. Try experimenting with this nutritious product today — you’re going to love it!
Blackstrap Molasses Recipes
Because blackstrap molasses can sub in for maple syrup, trying using it in my Maple-Glazed Rosemary Carrots Recipe. The bittersweet flavor of molasses goes perfectly with the rosemary in this recipe.
Another way to use blackstrap molasses in place of maple syrup is with my Gluten-Free Cinnamon Buns Recipe. This recipe is delicious, healthy and gluten-free! The texture of molasses compliments the stickiness of a cinnamon bun too.
Blackstrap molasses is commonly used to make marinades, sauces and glazes. You can use molasses in place of honey; it provides the same texture and a slightly bitter flavor. My Grilled Honey-Glazed Salmon Recipe would be perfect for blackstrap molasses because it creates the thick consistency that works perfectly for salmon glazes.
Total Time: 40 minutes
- 9 medjool dates
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 2/3 cup blackstrap molasses
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 3 cups gluten-free flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, sprinkled
- 1/2 teaspoon clove
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Blend dates in a food processor until chopped finely, then add oil, molasses and ginger while processor is running.
- Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and sea salt to food processor slowly and process until dough-like.
- Chill dough for at least 20 minutes.
- Flour your counter or workspace, then roll out the dough until approx 1/4″ thick.
- Cut shapes with cookie cutters or squares with a knife.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
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Frequently utilized MS treatments are prescribed with the goal of disease stabilization. However, they may share a common deficiency: lack of effectiveness in addressing many of the symptoms associated with the disease. Additionally they may lead to a troubling array of side effects which in themselves can negatively impact quality of life.
Newer treatments are now being investigated that seek to address many of the most debilitating symptoms related to MS. Since these novel therapies do not involve long-term treatment with pharmacological agents, they present a possible option for MS patients who are either unable to tolerate the side-effects of MS medications or who are unsatisfied with the results of their current therapies.
Dr. Michael Arata of Autonomic Specialists in Newport Beach, California has been investigating a therapeutic approach that targets many of the more troublesome symptoms suffered by MS patients, particularly those related to autonomic dysfunction (including brain fog, fatigue, headaches upon awakening, bladder and bowel problems, and inability to thermoregulate). This endovascular therapy, called Transvascular Autonomic Modulation (TVAM), has been shown to improve symptoms in a majority of patients, according to research published in Acta Phlebologica.
More recently, Dr. Arata has been investigating a surgical treatment involving the use of adult mesenchymal stem cells in conjunction with the Cell Surgical Network. This treatment involves mesenchymal stem cells in a stromal vascular fraction (SVF) that is produced from the patient’s own fat cells (extracted via a mini-liposuction procedure).
Mesenchymal stem cells and growth factors contained in SVF are known to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Mesenchymal stem cells also have the capacity to remain dormant until they reach an area of injured or damaged tissue.
Now Dr. Arata is investigating an approach for patients with MS that includes both TVAM therapy and the SVF/mesenchymal stem cell treatment in a single outpatient visit.
It is possible that including both mesenchymal stem cell therapy and the TVAM procedure may lead to an enhanced effect. Therapeutic synergy might be achieved through both the anti-inflammatory effects of the SVF and the reparative capabilities of mesenchymal stem cells along with enhanced autonomic function seen in patients following TVAM.
Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study on the prevalence of disability in the U.S. The study examined vision loss, cognition, mobility, self-care and independent living, but failed to mention hearing loss, the third most common public health concern after diabetes and heart disease.
Join the Hearing Health Foundation in letting the CDC know that hearing loss is a serious concern that affects quality of life, ability to work, and a person’s full participation in society by signing their petition: https://www.change.org/p/centers-for-disease-control-and-pr…
Check out this cool “Defeat Dizziness” car decal, designed by VEDA Ambassador Chair, David Morrill’s sister! Make a donation of $15 or more to David’s personal campaign page and he’ll send you a decal as a thank you gift.
Dr. Rachael Trommelen is conducting a survey to assess physician knowledge of and experience with diagnosing vestibular disorders. If you are a patient or healthcare provider, you can help by sharing this article with your physician and/or colleagues.
Brian Austin Green’s Vertigo: Why the Condition Is So Debilitating
The actor developed the condition after being involved in a head-on car collision in December. (Photo: AP)
Fans of Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green were shocked when the longtime couple announced in mid-August that they’re divorcing. But some surprising health information has also surfaced out of news reports of the divorce: Green suffers from vertigo.
According to TMZ, Green has had difficulty working since developing the condition in December, after he and Fox were involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Green’s vertigo is reportedly so bad that he has trouble getting out of bed.
Vertigo is the feeling that you’re spinning or that everything is spinning around you, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. There are varying degrees of vertigo, and the condition is common, Stephen William Parker, MD, a neurologist in Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Neurology, tells Yahoo Health.
People who suffer from vertigo may get “terrible episodes where they can’t function for a number of hours,” Parker says, while others may simply feel momentarily dizzy from changing positions.
Unfortunately, the debilitating forms of vertigo, which Green reportedly suffers from, are “moderately common,” Parker says.
The condition can be crippling because it messes with your brain’s ability to function, Amir Kheradmand, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, tells Yahoo Health.
He likens the brain to a computer. It gets sensory input from a variety of sources and puts that information together to create a comfortable, consistent perception of orientation within your environment. If anything is wrong with this processing system and your brain can’t put this sensory information together fast enough, there is a malfunction. As a result, you can feel dizzy.
Questions and Answers about Alopecia Areata
This publication contains general information about alopecia areata (al-oh-PEE-shah ar-ee-AH-tah). It describes what alopecia areata is, its causes, and treatment options. Information is also provided on current research. At the end is a list of key words to help you understand the terms in this publication. If you have further questions after reading this publication, you may wish to discuss them with your doctor.
Alopecia areata is just one cause of alopecia, or hair loss. This publication deals only with alopecia areata.
What Is Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia areata is considered an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system, which is designed to protect the body from foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria, mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, the structures from which hairs grow. This can lead to hair loss on the scalp and elsewhere.
In most cases, hair falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter. In many cases, the disease does not extend beyond a few bare patches. In some people, hair loss is more extensive. Although uncommon, the disease can progress to cause total loss of hair on the scalp (referred to as alopecia areata totalis) or complete loss of hair on the scalp, face, and body (alopecia areata universalis).
In alopecia areata, immune system cells called white blood cells attack the rapidly growing cells in the hair follicles. The affected hair follicles become small and drastically slow down hair production. Fortunately, the stem cells that continuously supply the follicle with new cells do not seem to be targeted. So the follicle always has the potential to regrow hair.
Scientists do not know exactly why the hair follicles undergo these changes, but they suspect that a combination of genes may predispose some people to the disease. In those who are genetically predisposed, some type of trigger—perhaps a virus or something in the person’s environment—brings on the attack against the hair follicles.
Alopecia areata affects nearly 2 percent of Americans of both sexes and of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. It often begins in childhood.
If you have a close family member with the disease, your risk of developing it is slightly increased. If your family member lost his or her first patch of hair before age 30, the risk to other family members is greater. Overall, one in five people with the disease has a family member who has it as well.
Alopecia areata is not a life-threatening disease. It does not cause any physical pain, and people with the condition are generally healthy otherwise. But for most people, a disease that unpredictably affects their appearance the way alopecia areata does is a serious matter.
The effects of alopecia areata are primarily socially and emotionally disturbing. In alopecia universalis, however, loss of eyelashes and eyebrows and hair in the nose and ears can make the person more vulnerable to dust, germs, and foreign particles entering the eyes, nose, and ears.
Alopecia areata often occurs in people whose family members have other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, pernicious anemia, or Addison’s disease. People who have alopecia areata do not usually have other autoimmune diseases, but they do have a higher occurrence of thyroid disease, atopic eczema, nasal allergies, and asthma.
It is possible for alopecia areata to be inherited. However, most children with alopecia areata do not have a parent with the disease, and the vast majority of parents with alopecia areata do not pass it along to their children.
Alopecia areata is not like some genetic diseases in which a child has a 50–50 chance of developing the disease if one parent has it. Scientists believe that there may be a number of genes that predispose certain people to the disease. It is highly unlikely that a child would inherit all of the genes needed to predispose him or her to the disease.
Even with the right (or wrong) combination of genes, alopecia areata is not a certainty. In identical twins, who share all of the same genes, the concordance rate is only 55 percent. In other words, if one twin has the disease, there is only a 55-percent chance that the other twin will have it as well. This shows that other factors besides genetics are required to trigger the disease.
To learn more about the genes and other factors involved in alopecia areata risk, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) sponsored the development of an alopecia areata registry. (For more information about the registry, see “What Research Is Being Conducted on Alopecia Areata?”)
There is every chance that your hair will regrow with or without treatment, but it may also fall out again. No one can predict when it might regrow or fall out. The course of the disease varies from person to person. Some people lose just a few patches of hair, then the hair regrows, and the condition never recurs. Other people continue to lose and regrow hair for many years. A few lose all the hair on the scalp; some lose all the hair on the scalp, face, and body. Even in those who lose all their hair, the possibility for full regrowth remains.
In some, the initial hair regrowth is white, with a gradual return of the original hair color. In most, the regrown hair is ultimately the same color and texture as the original hair.
The course of alopecia areata is highly unpredictable, and the uncertainty of what will happen next is probably the most difficult and frustrating aspect of the disease. You may continue to lose hair, or your hair loss may stop. The hair you have lost may or may not grow back, and you may or may not continue to develop new bare patches.
Although there is neither a cure for alopecia areata nor drugs approved for its treatment, some people find that medications approved for other purposes can help hair grow back, at least temporarily. Keep in mind that although these treatments may promote hair growth, none of them prevent new patches or actually cure the underlying disease. Consult your health care professional about the best option for you. A combination of treatments may work best. Ask how long the treatment may last, how long it will take before you see results, and about the possible side effects.
In addition to treatments to help hair grow, there are measures that can be taken to minimize the effects of excessive sun exposure or discomforts of lost hair.
- Sunscreens are important for the scalp, face, and all exposed areas.
- Eyeglasses (or sunglasses) protect the eyes from excessive sun and from dust and debris when eyebrows or eyelashes are missing.
- Wigs, caps, or scarves protect the scalp from the sun and keep the head warm.
- An ointment applied inside the nostrils keeps them moisturized and helps to protect against organisms invading the nose when nostril hair is missing.
This is a common question, particularly for children, teens, and young adults who are beginning to form lifelong goals and who may live with the effects of alopecia areata for many years. The comforting news is that alopecia areata is not a painful disease and does not make people feel sick physically. It is not contagious, and people who have the disease are generally healthy otherwise. It does not reduce life expectancy and it should not interfere with going to school, playing sports and exercising, pursuing any career, working, marrying, and raising a family.
The emotional aspects of living with hair loss, however, can be challenging. Many people cope by learning as much as they can about the disease, speaking with others who are facing the same problem, and, if necessary, seeking counseling to help build a positive self-image.
Living with hair loss can be difficult, especially in a culture that views hair as a sign of youth and good health. Even so, most people with alopecia areata are well-adjusted, contented people living full lives.
The key to coping is valuing yourself for who you are, not for how much hair you have or don’t have. Many people learning to cope with alopecia areata find it helpful to talk with other people who are dealing with the same problems. Nearly 2 percent of Americans have this disease at some point in their lives, so you are not alone. If you would like to be in touch with others with the disease, the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) can help through its pen pal program, message boards, annual conference, and support groups that meet in various locations nationwide. To find contact information for NAAF and other organizations that can help people with alopecia areata, see “Where Can People Find More Information About Alopecia Areata?”
Another way to cope with the disease is to minimize its effects on your appearance. If you have extensive hair loss, a wig or hairpiece can look natural and stylish. For small patches of hair loss, a hair-colored powder, cream, or crayon applied to the scalp can make hair loss less obvious by eliminating the contrast between the hair and the scalp. Skillfully applied eyebrow pencil can mask missing eyebrows.
Children with alopecia areata may prefer to wear bandanas or caps. There are many styles available to suit a child’s interest and mood. It is often helpful if a parent informs teachers, coaches, and others that the child has alopecia areata, that it is not contagious, and that the child is healthy.
For women, attractive scarves can hide patchy hair loss, and proper makeup can camouflage the effects of lost facial hair. If you would like to learn more about camouflaging the cosmetic aspects of alopecia areata, ask your doctor or members of your local support group to recommend a cosmetologist who specializes in working with people whose appearance is affected by medical conditions.
Although a cure is not imminent, researchers are making headway toward a better understanding of the disease. This increased understanding will likely lead the way to better treatments for alopecia areata and eventually a way to cure it or even prevent it.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other organizations support research into the disease and its treatment. Here are some promising areas of research:
- Developing animal models. This is a critical step toward understanding any disease, and much progress has been made. By studying mice with problems similar to those encountered in human alopecia areata, researchers hope to learn more about the mechanism of the disease and eventually develop treatments for the disease in people.
- Studying hair follicle development. By studying how hair follicles form, develop, and cycle through growth and resting phases, researchers hope to gain a better understanding of hair growth cycle biology that may lead to treatments for the underlying disease process.
- Understanding stem cell biology. Epithelial stem cells are immature cells that are responsible for regenerating and maintaining a variety of tissues, including the skin and the hair follicles. Stem cells in the follicle appear to be spared from injury in alopecia areata, which may explain why the potential for regrowth is always there in people with the disease. By studying the biology of these cells, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of factors that trigger the disease.
- Finding genes. Scientists have identified genetic variations associated with the development of alopecia areata. They also discovered that alopecia areata has genetic similarities to other autoimmune diseases, namely type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease. An understanding of the genetics of the disorder will aid in disease prevention, early intervention, and development of specific therapies. To assist researchers searching for such genetic clues, the NIAMS supported the development of the National Alopecia Areata Registry, a network of five centers, to identify and register patients with the disease and collect information and blood samples (which contain genes). Data, including genetic information, is made available to researchers studying the genetic basis and other aspects of the disease and disease risk. For more information, log onto the registry website at www.AlopeciaAreataRegistry.org.
More information on research is available from the following resources:
- NIH Clinical Research Trials and You helps people learn more about clinical trials, why they matter, and how to participate. Visitors to the website will find information about the basics of participating in a clinical trial, first-hand stories from actual clinical trial volunteers, explanations from researchers, and links to how to search for a trial or enroll in a research-matching program.
- ClinicalTrials.gov offers up-to-date information for locating federally and privately supported clinical trials for a wide range of diseases and conditions.
- NIH RePORTER is an electronic tool that allows users to search a repository of both intramural and extramural NIH-funded research projects from the past 25 years and access publications (since 1985) and patents resulting from NIH funding.
- PubMed is a free service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine that lets you search millions of journal citations and abstracts in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and preclinical sciences.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institutes of Health
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
National Institutes of Health
National Alopecia Areata Foundation
American Academy of Dermatology
American Hair Loss Council
Addison’s disease. A condition that occurs when the adrenal glands (a pair of glands situated on top of the kidneys) fail to secrete enough corticosteroid hormones. Without treatment, the disease can be fatal.
Alopecia areata. An autoimmune, often reversible disease in which loss of hair occurs in sharply defined areas usually involving the scalp or beard, but any area of the body where hair grows can be affected.
Alopecia areata totalis. A form of alopecia areata characterized by the total loss of hair on the scalp.
Alopecia areata universalis. A form of alopecia areata in which all hair on the scalp, face, and body is lost.
Autoimmune disease. A disease that results when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and type 1 diabetes are autoimmune diseases (“auto” means self).
Diabetes. A disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is necessary to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy.
Hair follicle. A small, narrow, tube-like structure in the skin from which hair grows.
Immune system. A complex network of specialized cells and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by “foreign” invaders such as bacteria and viruses. In some autoimmune conditions, it appears that the immune system does not function properly and may attack the body’s own tissues by mistake.
Pernicious anemia. A potentially dangerous form of anemia, usually caused by an autoimmune process, which results in a deficiency of vitamin B-12.
Rheumatoid arthritis. An autoimmune disease that targets primarily the membrane lining the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, swelling, and joint deformity.
Systemic lupus erythematosus. A chronic autoimmune disease of the connective tissue that can attack and damage the skin, joints, blood vessels, and internal organs.
The NIAMS gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the following individuals in the preparation and review of previous versions of this publication: George Cotsarelis, M.D., University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA; Vicki Kalabokes, National Alopecia Areata Foundation, San Rafael, CA; Alan Moshell, M.D., NIAMS/NIH; and David Norris, M.D., University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO. A special acknowledgement goes to Vera Price, M.D., University of California, San Francisco, CA, for assistance in the preparation of an updated version of this publication. Mary Anne Dunkin was the original author of a previous version of this publication.
For Your Information
This publication contains information about medications used to treat the health condition discussed here. When this publication was developed, we included the most up-to-date (accurate) information available. Occasionally, new information on medication is released.
For updates and for any questions about any medications you are taking, please contact
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Toll Free: 888-INFO-FDA (888-463-6332)
For additional information on specific medications, visit Drugs@FDA at www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/drugsatfda. Drugs@FDA is a searchable catalog of FDA-approved drug products.
For updates and questions about statistics, please contact
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics
This publication is not copyrighted. Readers are encouraged to duplicate and distribute as many copies as needed.