By Paul Taylor
Hair loss and diet can sometimes be connected. For both men and women, hair loss numbers are getting worse, and the foods we eat are largely to blame. This page explains why.
Quite a few. For example, a nutritional deficiency and hair loss can develop together if one or more vital minerals are absent from your diet which, over time (perhaps years), become depleted from your body.
However, this page focuses on androgenetic alopecia. That's because this is the type that mostly explains why hair loss numbers are on the rise.
Androgenetic alopecia is already largely to blame for the significant hair loss that 50% of all women experience by the age of 60.
And, of course, it's also by far the most common type of hair loss in men: around 20% of all men are likely to start losing their hair as early as puberty (and could suffer complete "male pattern baldness" by the age of 30). A further 60% will lose their hair gradually, whereby widespread baldness may or may not develop but smaller bald areas like receding temples or a bald patch at the back, certainly can. And this leaves just 20% of men who will never lose their hair.
But even for those men and women without hair loss, a future full of hair is now far from certain - as you'll see below, this type of hair loss and diet can be connected.
Everyone loves junk food. It tastes great doesn't it? But would it taste as great if I told you that it could be making your hair loss worse?
Most people already know that the typical junk food diet enjoyed in the West is causing a serious obesity problem. And with it, a serious health problem too – diabetes, heart disease, hypertension to name but a few related diseases. And all of them can have a big connection to the Western diet and lazy lifestyle.
Again, most people already know this.
But, what you might not know is that excessive consumption of beer, burgers, sugary snacks and drinks, etc. can all contribute to baldness, hair loss and hair thinning.
So, can things like beer actually cause hair loss?
Drinking too much alcohol or eating too much junk food on a regular basis can never start the hair loss process. Just take a look at all the seriously obese people out there who consume vast quantities of this rubbish. Many of them still have all their hair. And that's mostly down to their genes of course. Some people simply don't have the genetic skull shape characteristics for hair loss to develop.
So, whilst beer, junk food, etc. could eventually induce a heart attack and kill these people, they should at least die keeping their hair on!
However, if hair loss does run in your family, and your normal
daily diet contains far too many calories*, you might just find yourself
suffering hair loss sooner, and to a greater extent, than you otherwise
The reason why, is because your hormone production and balance are influenced by the foods you eat. And that especially applies to saturated fats.
Too much saturated fat in your diet is especially bad for both your health and your hair.
Most saturated fats we eat come from red meat, milk, cheese, processed foods, etc. These all tend to increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, whereas HDL (good) cholesterol generally comes from unsaturated fats.
The reason why saturated fats are so bad for your your hair is because they can get converted into two things connected with the hair loss process: dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and sebum.
Here’s a very basic pathway showing how your body can produce DHT and sebum from fat:
Fat => Cholesterol => Testosterone => DHT => Sebum
The hormone DHT is already well known for its association with this type of hair loss.
As for sebum, its production is directly influenced by DHT (more sebum is produced as DHT levels rise). And, in excess, this oily substance might also contribute slightly to the hair loss process by clogging up the follicles, which then hampers hair as it tries to grow.
Note: You can learn more about how sebum and hair hygiene might affect hair growth by reading: Can Washing Hair Cause Hair Loss?
But it's not just saturated fat consumption that's the problem. Any food in excess, including protein, carbohydrates* and other types of fat, can get converted into saturated fat and then potentially harm your hair as mentioned above.
However, since fat is much more calorifically dense than any other food type, obviously it's especially important that you don't take in too much fat (of any type) that's surplus to your body's requirements.
If you do, you might just send your DHT production and hair loss into overdrive!
* Carbohydrates can also pose another problem for your hair, as explained below.
If you take in too much sugar, it might start leaving a bitter taste in your mouth!
That's because, as well as contributing to excess calories (as explained above), too many carbohydrates in the form of sugar can hinder hair growth for another reason as well:
If you eat loads of sugar, your body releases loads of insulin to deal with it. But, high insulin levels also decrease the amount of SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin). And that’s not good because SHBG binds to testosterone and so, reduces the amount available that can get converted into DHT.
Unfortunately, sugar finds its way into all sorts of things. And this includes alcohol - your favorite beer or wine might not taste sweet, but sugar forms a significant part of most alcoholic drinks.
So if you're a big drinker, that’s a lot of sugar you’re putting into your body!
Other sources of sugar include refined carbohydrates - White rice, white flour, cakes, cookies, etc. All these things lack fiber and nutrients, and only contain "empty" calories.
Lots of them!
Unrefined carbohydrates, on the other hand, are a much better choice because, whilst they still get converted into glucose (which causes insulin to be released) they do so at a more steady, balanced rate.
So that explains excess calorie consumption, what about taking in too few?
Although men are much more likely to suffer hair loss than women, women are much more likely to go on weight loss programs.
And that presents another possible link between hair loss and diet:
In order to comply with a strict weight loss regime, many women (and men) make some major changes from their normal diet by drastically cutting back on calories.
At first, that might sound OK because, if you normally enjoy a high fat, high sugar diet and need to lose some weight, then obviously you'll benefit from a weight loss program. But, that doesn't have to be a radical crash diet. A sensible high fiber diet will not only help you lose weight, but also satisfy your hunger and prevent any diet-related hair loss.
Basically, "you are what you eat", so the foods you consume will affect your health. And the health of your body is often reflected in the health of your hair. So, if your body gets stressed from too few calories (which it will), your hair could be the first to show it - both the condition of your hair, and quality of hair growth might start fading away.
So, in other words, a rapid weight loss program might only make your hair loss worse!
Clearly then, you've got to get the balance right - Not too many or too few calories in your diet, and your hair loss might just be kept at bay.
Perhaps the link between hair loss and diet can best be illustrated by what's happening in Japan.
The diseases mentioned earlier are mostly associated with Western countries. But, they're now becoming increasingly common in other parts of the world too - the traditional Japanese diet of fish, rice, etc. has, for a long time now, been giving way to a typical Western diet. And with it, Japanese men and women are now experiencing a significant increase in all these serious conditions... and hair loss!
There also appears to be a particularly strong link between severe hair loss and heart disease.
So, that's how hair loss and diet can be connected. But if you now want to know which foods you should eat rather than which ones to avoid, read: super foods for hair growth.
Note: Always consult with a qualified health care specialist to identify which type of hair loss you have or make any dietary changes to treat it.
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