At 44 when he assumed office as Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola’s hair was black but before he could finish the second term in office, the man could count his grains of black in his gray hairs.
He attributed the gray hair to hard work and of course the stress that comes with being a Lagos governor. Undoubtedly, he took Lagos beyond ordinary in eight years and in his usual words, the reward for hard work is more work.
Currently, Fashola is the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, a three in one ministry. He is expected to provide stable electricity for Nigeria. He is expected to fix many of the dilapidated roads. He is also expected to provide homes for the homeless.
It has been said that stress can make one go gray, or cause one to lose hair. But can it?
Even though one sometimes feel like tearing his hair out because of personal, economic, and work-related stress, stress isn't likely to be the direct cause of hair turning gray. Some studies have shown that unavoidable damage to the DNA in cells that produce the pigment responsible for hair colour is most likely the culprit. But can stress accelerate the aging process and, as a result, cause one to go gray sooner than one otherwise would? Right now, the answer is debatable.
"We have all witnessed the graying hair of many past presidents," says Amy McMichael, MD, professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, N.C. "Perhaps over long periods of stress, there may be an acceleration of gray hair in some people." But, she points out, that idea is mainly speculation. "I don't know of any studies showing this," she says, "and I'm not sure I have a scientific answer."
If the jury's still out on the question of stress turning hair gray, then what's the verdict on stress and hair loss? Could there be a relationship?
In a report by the Telegraph, for years there has been an anecdotal belief that high levels of stress are linked to the greying of hair, now following a study with mice researchers have confirmed there is some truth in it.
The US team found that the appearance of grey hairs could be the result of a depletion of stems cells.
Hair and skin colour is controlled by melanocyte stem cells which are found in the base of hair follicles – an area known as the bulge.
Dr Mayumi Ito and colleagues from New York University discovered stress not only causes stem cells to leave, but when they do they are not replaced, and therefore the hairs turn white.
The scientists investigated the stem cell behaviour by looking at how they leave hair follicles to repair damaged skin.
“Stress hormones promote melanocyte migration from hair follicles to damaged skin,” Dr Ito said.
"We thought it would be interesting to speculate that excessive stress might promote this migration too much."
The study has fascinated scientists from around the world, including Associate Professor Rick Sturm from the University of Queensland, Australia.
He said: "Normally stem cells only stay in the bulge region.
"If you lose the stem cells from the bulge region, the hair follicles in that area would become white."
So for Fashola, there are indications that the hair may go grayer.