Question: Hi there, I have just started weight training and am looking to also start using protein shakes to help me bulk up but am not sure which ones would be best. I heard there was a link between some protein shakes and baldness – is this true? I am following a healthy diet, and am not currently thinning but do have a family history of hairloss and don’t want to do anything to bring this on. Thanks a lot. a
Answer: Hi Todd. Not all protein shakes and dietary supplements are unhealthy, but some are. You’ll find many protein shakes contain additives such as creatine and inorganic growth hormones, designed to help grow muscle mass. A side-effect of these additives is raised testosterone levels and this is what may accelerate the rate of hair loss in some men who have a family history of hair loss – it basically depends on your innate predisposition to baldness.
It is sensitivity to testosterone which triggers baldness, so the actual level is not the predictor of whether hair loss will occur. That is to say, some men with low testosterone levels can go bald, while other men will be able to tolerate the additional testosterone produced by protein shakes without losing any hair. For anyone whose genes are predisposed to genetic hair loss – which, as you indicate, you are likely to be – the additional testosterone could act as a catalyst for earlier or faster hair loss.
It is not actually testosterone itself that causes hair to shed; it is dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is produced when testosterone in the body reacts with the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. DHT binds to the receptors in the hair follicles, causing them to shrink so that the hair becomes brittle and sheds. DHT also prevents new hair from growing. Therefore, the speculation of a link between creatine and accelerated male hair loss centres around the fact that the more testosterone there is in the body, the more DHT will be produced. The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine confirmed that a study of young rugby players demonstrated vastly increased levels of DHT after the consumption of creatine.
If you want to include protein shakes or meal-replacement shakes as part of your fitness regime, there are organic alternatives available which do not contain creatine. However, whilst using these creatine-free shakes may stop hair loss from occurring prematurely, it will not stop male pattern balding.
Taking this into account, as we are not fitness specialists, we would recommend you speak to a sports nutrition or healthcare professional about the best protein shakes for your training needs. With regards to your family history of balding, if you are prone to hereditary hair loss, we recommend you seek advice from a hair loss expert as there are medically-proven male hair loss treatments available to help men prevent this.
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