Stress really does turn your hair grey

You might want to start controlling your stress levels as research claims too much stress can lead to those silver strands

You might want to start controlling your stress levels as research claims too much stress can lead to grey hair.

Scientists have got to the bottom of how adrenaline – the fight or flight chemical – causes damage to DNA, and leads us to look older by turning our hair grey and also increases the risk of diseases.

Over a four-week period, mice were injected with an adrenalin-like compound to trigger stress, which led to the degeneration of the protein p53, known for its role in preventing cancer.

‘This could give plausible explanation of how chronic stress may lead to a variety of human conditions and disorders, which range from merely cosmetic, like greying hair, to life threatening disorders like malignancies,’ says Professor Robert Lefkowitz, Duke University, North Carolina.

The experiment published in the Journal Nature suggests that at some point in the future it is possible that a drug that stops this molecule from working may counter the effects of stress, from going grey to getting cancer.

Professor Lefkowitz says: ‘We believe this paper is the first to propose a specific mechanism through which a hallmark of chronic stress, elevated adrenaline, could eventually cause DNA damage that is detectable.’

‘The study showed chronic stress leads to prolonged lowering of p53 levels,’ says co-researcher Dr Makoto Hara. ‘We hypothesize this is the reason for the chromosomal irregularities we found in these chronically stressed mice.’

The team are planning further studies to understand if physical reactions to stress also lead to DNA damage.

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