One of the first signs that we may be getting older is that our hair slowly starts to turn gray. Each year people spend billions of dollars on dyes and creams to help hair keep its youthful appearance. But what about supplements? Yes, there are indeed pills touted to turn back the clock and restore hair to its natural color. One product I quickly ran into as I wrote this review is called Catalase Hx™. The word – catalase – is a reference to what's said to be the active ingredient in most of these supplements. But do they work? In this review I want to look at Catalase Hx and in doing so, try to see if it has any evidence showing that it stops gray hair. If we can figure this out, we can understand all of these products. Hopefully by the end of this review, you'll have a better idea on whether these “no gray hair” supplements are right for you. Also see the Indian Gooseberry review for more on that gray hair supplement.
Who Makes Catalase Hx?
Invite Health is the name of the company. According to the Better Business Bureau file, Invite Health is located at 900 Shames Drive , Westbury, NY 11590. As can be seen from the link, this building does indeed display “Invite Health.” On the bottle of Catalase Hx I have, there is another address listed: 1645 Jericho Tpk, New Hyde Park NY 11040.
An online search of this address also shows that this building is next door to “Hickey Chemists.” Jerry Hickey, a pharmacist, is the Chief Scientific Officer of Invite Health. He also hosts Invite Health Radio, on local radio stations.
On the About page of Invite Health, it states that Hickey Chemists merged with Invite Health in 2001. The BBB gives Invite Health a rating of “B+” when this review was created. Do check the file for updates and additional information.
How To Contact Invite Health
Their website lists a hotline number of 800-349-0929. According to the Better Business Bureau File, Invite Heath can also be reached at 718- 325-1100. The contact number listed on the bottle of Catalase Hx I have is 800 437 8090.
Catalase Hx Ingredients
According to the product label, 1 bottle of Catalase Hx contains 30 capsules. In 1 capsule there are the following ingredients:
Let's look at these ingredients separately
Catalase is an enzyme and a lack of it is involved in hair turning gray. As we get older, we make less catalase. To summarize the explanation listed on the Invite Health website, lack of catalase causes the buildup of hydrogen peroxide, which in turn “bleaches” the hair and skin by blocking the production of the pigment melanin, which gives skin and hair its color. Adding catalase, they go on to say, can aid in “helping to prevent discoloration.”
This is an intriguing notion.
Could taking the catalase enzyme:
1. prevent gray hair?
2. restore the natural color to already gray hair?
One thing that occurred to me as I looked over the Invite Health website is where they said catalase might help “prevent discoloration.” That is not necessarily the same thing as saying catalase would reverse grey hair to its normal color. Even so, is there any evidence that the catalase enzyme helps prevent gray hair? Unfortunately I didn’t see any studies on the Invite Health website to show it did. So I searched the National Library of Medicine for:
- Catalase gray hair
- Catalase melanin
I wanted to see if anyone ever tried to give catalase to people to see if it actually reversed gray hair. While I did see a few studies showing that catalase and hydrogen peroxide are involved in the graying process, I saw no studies that attempted to see if giving catalase to people would return hair to its normal color or slow down the graying process. What's up with that? Studies related to catalase and gray hair I did locate include:
- A 2014 study titled Premature Graying as a Consequence of Compromised Antioxidant Activity in Hair Bulb Melanocytes and Their Precursors
- A 2009 study titled Senile hair graying: H2O2-mediated oxidative stress affects human hair color by blunting methionine sulfoxide repair.
Neither of these studies show that supplementation with catalase stops or reverses gray hair. I provide them in the hopes that they will help others who are investigating this topic.
According to the Invite Health website Picrorhiza is “helpful in boosting the body’s Catalase production.” So, I searched the National Library of Medicine for:
- Picrorhiza catalase
- Picrorhiza gray hair
Oddly, no human studies showed up, although I did locate 2008 study titled Antidiabetic and antioxidant effects of Picrorhiza kurrooa rhizome extracts in diabetic rats, where picrorhiza improved catalase production in diabetic rats. What about people? I then Googled these words to see if anybody else online might list research. While I saw websites that discuss picrorhiza and its role in helping gray hair, nobody showed me ANY research studies, so I could see the proof for myself. It's like everybody repeats what everybody else says about this stuff. Where's the human evidence?
As an aside, I also saw references to cosmetics giant, L’Oreal, and how they were coming out with a pill that will stop gray hair (as long as you keep taking it) from occurring in the first place. It's apparently due out in 2015.
Based on my inability to find any published, peer reviewed proof showing that supplementation with either catalase and/or picrorhiza helps gray hair, I can't say for sure if it works or not.
Other Gray Hair Supplements
Catalase Hx isn't the only product pill out there. As I wrote this review I came across another supplement called Go Away Gray, made by a company called Rise-n-Shine LLC and which was featured in this 2013 Chicago Tribune article titled Can a supplement reverse graying hair?
While I can't be sure, according to the Chicago Tribune article, Go Away Gray appears to have been created in response to the owner seeing the 2009 catalase study I referenced above, which, incidentally doesn't show catalase supplements help.
Go Away Gray contains 5000 IU of catalase as well as folic acid, zinc, biotin and copper as well as a “synergistic and proprietary blend” of ingredients, that are not listed on the bottle. So far, Go Away Gray appears to have no studies showing that it reverses gray hair. Here is Go Away Gray on Amazon for those who want to see what others have to say about it.
Another product called Get Away Grey, also contains catalase. I discovered this product while reading a 2013 USA Today article titled Can enzyme supplements really keep hair from going gray? Here is Get Away Grey on Amazon. Another 2013 article, this time from Forbes, titled A Pill To Prevent Gray Hair – Is It Finally On The Way?
Also discusses various gray hair supplements. I'm truly shocked that NOBODY in the scientific community appears to have published a paper to test whether giving catalase to people orally reverses gray hair or not. In the words of some teenagers today, that's an “Epic Fail.”
Update. In May 13, 2013, the makers of Go Away Gray and Get Away Gray have settled charges made by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about claims made pertaining to these supplements. Here is the FTC Press Release.
Can We Absorb Catalase?
When gray hair pills came to my attention, my first thought was “can we absorb catalase?” “Can it survive digestion ?” Catalase is, after all, an enzyme. Enzymes are basically protein-based machines.
When we eat protein (fish, steak, whey protein), it's broken down into the amino acids that make up the protein. Those amino acids are then absorbed into the body and used to do whatever the body needs them to do, whether it's make more muscle, or repair a cell in your ear lobe.
Since catalase is made of protein, can it make its way through the digestion process and into the blood stream as intact, undigested catalase? I can't find any proof we can absorb catalase. If we can't absorb catalase, then all these catalase gray hair supplements might be useless.
What About Sublingual Catalase?
If we can't absorb catalase via the stomach, what if we put a catalase supplement under the tongue and let it be absorbed that way? This would let it enter the blood undigested and, in theory, help it get to the hair follicle to work its magic. It's a fascinating idea, although I can't find any studies to see if it's ever been attempted. The same thing goes for transdermal patches too.
Sublingual supplements can be found on the web but when I looked, I didn't see any evidence they helped at restoring hair color. If anyone ever tries this experiment, do let me know what happens.
How To Naturally Raise Catalase
Is there anything we can do to naturally raise catalase levels? Well, it turns out there might be. One study noted that exercise can raise catalase levels by over 400%. This only involved lab rats though. Ironically though, a human study, involving 18 soccer players noted that exercise lead to a decrease in catalase levels.
Its thought that catalase increases to compensate for exercise ramping up free radical production -and that too much exercise might overwhelm anti-oxidant defenses, leading to reduced production of catalase. Regardless of theory, there doesn't seem to be much research on this -and even less about how this might be related to the loss of hair color.
Some websites discuss how lowering homocysteine can reduce gray hair from developing. Homocysteine contributes to heart disease -and it generates free radicals by ramping up hydrogen peroxide production. While reducing homocysteine is great from a heart health standpoint, Ive never seen any studies linking this to hair color. Does it work? It cant hurt but I cant say either way.
Simple ways to reduce homocysteine levels include increasing intake of folate (or folic acid), vitamin B12 and vitamin B6.
While we are on the topic of diet, one human study noted people with premature gray hair had low levels of iron, serum ferritin, calcium vitamin D and vitamin B12. This doesn't prove lack of these nutrients causes gray hair.
If gray hair is- at least – partially related to elevated hydrogen peroixde -then it makes sense to eat foods that contain naturally occurring antioxidants. Any food that is colorful (red, green, orange, purple etc) will have these ingredients. Basically, I'm talking about fruits, veggies, beans and teas.
Can They Reverse Gray Hair?
Can catalase supplements restore hair to its natural color again? Well, on the Invite Health Expert Discussion page for Catalase Hx, Jerry Hicky, the Chief Scientific Officer for Invite Health says:
“I've had clients tell me they went on catalase and their hair color came back. How do I test that? How do I know if that’s true? I don't know.”
I know how you can tell – test it for goodness sake! Give people catalase Hx for 4-8 weeks and see if their hair returns to its normal color. Easy-peasy! This is NOT difficult to do. Heck, any middle school student could easily test these products! Because of the ease at which this can actually be tested, I have to ask, why haven't ANY companies bothered to do the super-duper easy research to see if their gray hair supplements really work?
Personally, I feel gray hair is more complex than just a catalase deficiency. I think supplement companies believe this too and that’s why many of these products often contain other ingredients – like Indian gooseberry – in addition to catalase. Whether or not these other ingredients add anything to the alleged benefits of these supplements, I don’t know – but I don't think so.
If anyone has had success /failure with gray hair pills, let me know. And also let me know how long you took them for too as that can help others. While we tend to think gray hair is a sign of getting “older” I'm not so sure of this. Rumor has it my grandfather started to go gray at 17. Right or wrong, that, at least, that gives me some solace when I look in the mirror.