Baldness may be fully reversible - study

coolio

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Not everything has an evolutionary advantage. Nature isn't perfect. Androgenetic Alopecia isn't the result of a genetic mutation.

I agree. It's a mistake to assume that the existence of baldness means it must have/had a purpose.

But consider the sheer impact it can have on somebody's attractiveness. I think that is at least a strike against that idea that it never had a purpose. We're not talking about a few extra skin moles or a slight height difference that shows up in 6% of the population. We're talking about something very widespread with a big negative impact. Nature does not take that kind of thing lightly.

There is the matter of age. Baldness usually doesn't show very much until past the peak ages for fathering children (in pre-industrial times). But on the other hand men never entirely lose that ability and women are still attracted to middle-aged men in general.

When would a man need more sun exposure? Maybe as he got older, and more of his face was covered with a thicker beard, and he became more averse to cold so he was dressed more heavily on average? That would line up with the progression of baldness over the lifespan.

The vitamin D explanation checks off more boxes than any other suggestion I know of. I doubt the condition purely evolved because of a major selection pressure for it. But IMO it may have been a combination of chance + mild/moderate selection pressure to keep it.
 

JaneyElizabeth

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I agree. It's a mistake to assume that the existence of baldness means it must have/had a purpose.

But consider the sheer impact it can have on somebody's attractiveness. I think that is at least a strike against that idea that it never had a purpose. We're not talking about a few extra skin moles or a slight height difference that shows up in 6% of the population. We're talking about something very widespread with a big negative impact. Nature does not take that kind of thing lightly.

There is the matter of age. Baldness usually doesn't show very much until past the peak ages for fathering children (in pre-industrial times). But on the other hand men never entirely lose that ability and women are still attracted to middle-aged men in general.

When would a man need more sun exposure? Maybe as he got older, and more of his face was covered with a thicker beard, and he became more averse to cold so he was dressed more heavily on average? That would line up with the progression of baldness over the lifespan.

The vitamin D explanation checks off more boxes than any other suggestion I know of. I doubt the condition purely evolved because of a major selection pressure for it. But IMO it may have been a combination of chance + mild/moderate selection pressure to keep it.
I think something got mis-worded. Random mutations indeed have no particular purpose and they may or may not improve fitness. About all that we can say is that on some level people who go bald have some more of certain types of male hormones which in the abstract seems like a good thing.
 

coolio

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I think something got mis-worded. Random mutations indeed have no particular purpose and they may or may not improve fitness. About all that we can say is that on some level people who go bald have some more of certain types of male hormones which in the abstract seems like a good thing.

If you have very bad hair genes, then you will go bald even with low-normal androgen levels.

If you have very good hair genes, then you won't go bald even if you jack your androgen levels up with steroids.

The genes are the main cause.



The only reason why we started fighting the problem hormonally is because we have no decent treatments.

Imagine if you could buy unlimited donor hair & get it all injected (not shave your head and get a bloody transplant surgery) for $500. Now THAT would be a good treatment. If that was available then nobody would be fighting hair loss by swallowing Finasteride.

If that kind of $500 hair multiplication treatment had been available for 50 years already, and then Propecia was invented this year, would anyone choose the latter? Hell no. They would think it was crazy to go "messing with your hormones" over this problem. And that IS the sane attitude. But our generation only has the shittier treatment so we don't think like this. Yet.
 
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benjt2

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I agree. It's a mistake to assume that the existence of baldness means it must have/had a purpose.

But consider the sheer impact it can have on somebody's attractiveness. I think that is at least a strike against that idea that it never had a purpose. We're not talking about a few extra skin moles or a slight height difference that shows up in 6% of the population. We're talking about something very widespread with a big negative impact. Nature does not take that kind of thing lightly.

There is the matter of age. Baldness usually doesn't show very much until past the peak ages for fathering children (in pre-industrial times). But on the other hand men never entirely lose that ability and women are still attracted to middle-aged men in general.

When would a man need more sun exposure? Maybe as he got older, and more of his face was covered with a thicker beard, and he became more averse to cold so he was dressed more heavily on average? That would line up with the progression of baldness over the lifespan.

The vitamin D explanation checks off more boxes than any other suggestion I know of. I doubt the condition purely evolved because of a major selection pressure for it. But IMO it may have been a combination of chance + mild/moderate selection pressure to keep it.
By now I personally think that human head hair has the same function as a peacock's tail: sexual signalling. These signals are known as honest, costly signals for the exact reasons you might expect: They are honest (i.e. usually can't be faked - until hair transplants, minoxidil and finasteride you couldn't fake having better/healthier hair) and they are costly. I think that "costly" here is the big key that everybody is missing and that neatly ties into Androgenetic Alopecia being influenced by a plethora of genes that primarily have other functions. It is costly because it is multifactorial and it is so by sexual selection. This also explains why baldness has such a big impact on physical attractiveness (on average a 2.5 drop on the 10 points scale if I remember correctly): That is exactly the point. It is supposed to signal health risks and thus to signal reduced fitness. That is why it deals such a big blow to our attractiveness. And that's why we are all here on this forum: Because we know what it does to our physical attractiveness.

If you have a look at the various GWAS studies (e.g. this one; there is another I can't find right now that identified which of these genes play the biggest role) that identified which genes are involved in Androgenetic Alopecia, some of these genes' primary functions are:
- vitamin D metabolism
- immunity
- inflammation
- cell division and differentiation
- autophagy
- angiogenesis
- growth hormones and wound healing (think, for example, IGF-1)
- lipid/fatty acid metabolism
- genes involved in regulating oxidative stress

It's literally all the stuff that keeps your body healthy and especially its regenerative functions in good shape. Regenerative ability is, by the way, the one thing that deteriorates most in your body with age. Likewise, age is the biggest predictor for Androgenetic Alopecia development. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Now let's have a look at all the things that were already found to either cause hair thinning and/or Androgenetic Alopecia or that were found to be impaired in Androgenetic Alopecia patients:
- vitamin D insufficiency and/or impaired vitamin D metabolism can lead to thinning and/or recession; there are a few but well-documented cases where Androgenetic Alopecia patients regrew hair after supplementing high-dose vitamin D
- Androgenetic Alopecia sufferers are known to have significantly elevated risk for insulin resistance, diabetes (IGF-1, anyone?) and general metabolic syndrome
- general nutrient deficiency
- atherosclerosis and calcification
- inflammation
- hypertension
- lack of dietary protein
- stress
- "tight scalp" and chronic muscle tension (that is why Rob English's massage method has success in some people)
- increased risks for CVD and certain types of cancer
- hell, even air pollution was found to play a small role

And this, I think, is the "point" and function of hair: It is a signal for all of these. That is also why it never works to fix just one of these in order to regrow hair; you have to get most to all of them in pretty good shape. That is also why we sometimes see these really weird and almost unbelievable regrowth stories like people regrowing hair on vitamin D alone, or on dietary changes alone, or on massage alone: These are mostly mild cases of Androgenetic Alopecia that stem from this one single factor they then fixed. That's also why most people can't replicate other people's "weird" success stories: Androgenetic Alopecia is, by evolution, multi-factorial. That is the point, like with a peacock's tail. If, let's say, there are 5 big factors for Androgenetic Alopecia, factors 1 to 5, and person A has mild Androgenetic Alopecia because of Factor 4 out of these 5 and manages to fix his Androgenetic Alopecia by addressing factor 4, then person B with "messed up" factors 1, 2 and 5 won't benefit at all from addressing Factor 4 like Person A: Firstly, Factor 4 does not play a role for him, and even if it did, he still has 2 or 3 other factors to restore to good health in order to be able to maintain the ability to grow healthy, youthful hair.

It's not just the vitamin D. It's not just the diet (which includes MetS, diabetes/insulin resistance, fat/cholesterol and atherosclerosis, ROS and many more things), physical exercise, and so on. If this was a multiple choice exam, the correct answer would be "pretty much all of the above because hair is a multifactorial honest and costly signal".
 
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