Some stress-related factors in aging appear reversible

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Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

A new study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons is the first to offer quantitative evidence linking psychological stress to graying hair in people.

And while it may seem intuitive that stress can accelerate graying, the researchers were surprised to discover that hair color can be restored when stress is eliminated, a finding that contrasts with a recent study in mice that suggested that stressed-induced gray hairs are permanent.

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Reducing stress in your life is a good goal, but it won’t necessarily turn your hair to a normal color.

“Based on our mathematical modeling, we think hair needs to reach a threshold before it turns gray,” [author Martin] Picard says. “In middle age, when the hair is near that threshold because of biological age and other factors, stress will push it over the threshold and it transitions to gray.

“But we don’t think that reducing stress in a 70-year-old who’s been gray for years will darken their hair or increasing stress in a 10-year-old will be enough to tip their hair over the gray threshold.”

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