The fire behind a red head is metabolic

red haired pig a little wild and woollyRed heads are HOT HEADS.

The fire is not in their personality (which has a tendency to be pretty explosive), but in their chemistry. It turns out the chemistry which creates those rusty locks, is pretty explosive too, leaving the red head metabolically stressed out.

Firing up the red pigment

Spanish researchers have uncovered the tumultuous chemistry which produces pheomelanin, the reddish pigment, in the fur of wild boars.

The production of pheomelanin starts off pretty much the same as that of the darker pigment, eumelanin, but in the final steps, pheomelanin production requires a huge amount of a powerful intracellular antioxidant, called glutathione (GSH).

So what …..

Glutathione is THE MAN

Glutathione is a super duper antioxidant. You could almost think of it as THE MAN.

It doesn’t get quite as much press as the antioxidants found in fruits and veg, because it really is an inside guy. The carotenoids, lycopenes and company are all very good at mopping up the free radical trouble outside, particularly in the gut and in the blood, but glutathione is responsible for mopping up the free radical trouble inside cells.

And to be honest, free radicals are a significant problem, inside, since for the most part, that is where they’re being produced.

Glutathione levels run low

Now all cells have a little stash of glutathione, to mop things up, but the point is the stash is limited.

It should be enough to keep oxidative “stress” under control, UNLESS…. there is an extra dose of stress.

And the Spanish research team believe making truck loads of red pigment, constitutes an “additional” stress.

More red more stress

The Spanish team grabbed handfuls of hair and muscle samples, from several wild boars. Bet this was kind of stressful.

The first step, in the quest to get to the bottom of the trouble with redness, was to quantify the levels of redness in each animal’s fur. Armed with their red colour chart, they then tested the levels of glutathione (GSH) and oxidative stress, in the muscle samples.

They found that the higher the levels of pheomelanin in the hair sample, the lower the levels of GSH in the muscle. And that muscles with less GSH, were experiencing more oxidative stress.

Not just red pigs in trouble

Red humans are also subject to more “stress”, it’s chemical not self-induced.

Epidemiological studies suggest humans, with lots of pheomelanin, have higher rates of cancer.

Hoorah for grey hairs

Hair turns grey when the body can’t be bothered to produce pigment anymore. It is not usually something we celebrate, but maybe we should.

The team discovered that grey haired wild boars were in prime condition, because they ended up with the lowest levels of oxidative damage.

Aaaaah but grey hair makes you look OLD.

Pigment in a bottle

Fortunately today, we can still have a little red pigment, without it creating “grey hairs” through oxidative stress.

So don’t be afraid to GO RED.

But if you’re a natural red head, you need to put in a little extra effort to ensure you keep your oxidative stress levels low. Getting the 7 Big Spoons sorted is a good place to start, sign up for 31 Days to Better Body Chemistry.

Relationships between Hair Melanization, Glutathione Levels, and Senescence in Wild Boars. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 2012; 85 (4): 332 Ismael Galván, Carlos Alonso-Alvarez, Juan J. Negro.

Interested in learning more about the chemistry  of  oxidative stress ? 

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Further reading

muscle seeing red raw egg with antioxidant properties genetic blondes
Wave a red flag at your muscles so they see red  A raw egg beats an apple in antioxidant capability Blonde babes are guided by different genes

The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.

balance eicosanoids rein in insulin dial down stress sleep vitamin D microflora think
Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion

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