Getting a daily supply of a range of healthy nutrients is generally a good thing but some vitamins and minerals, when consumed in excess, can cause side-effects, including hair loss.
Exceeding recommended guidelines
Due to the trend for fortifying food and drinks with whatever the latest ‘fashionable’ vitamin or mineral is, it is easier than ever to enhance your diet. However, health and nutrition experts are concerned that these ‘enriched’ recipes can make it easy to exceed the recommended daily allowance (RDA) without even noticing.
WebMD quotes nutrition-specialist, Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Centre, who says manufacturers are “garnishing the food supply with overfortification.” Warning that, “When more and more foods are enhanced, it becomes impossible for consumers to know what dose they’re getting over the course of a day… Clinicians have to realise we might be introducing new dietary imbalances because of this practice“.
Vitamins and minerals that cause hair loss when consumed in excess
Whilst cases involving toxic levels of vitamins or minerals being found in the bloodstream are still rare, seeing what Dr. Katz describes as “higher than optimal” levels is more likely now.
The following four vitamins and minerals are examples of those that are good for hair and scalp health when taken in moderation. However, if your intake increases and you are regularly consuming more than your daily allowance, they can all lead to hair loss by triggering a condition called Telogen Effluvium. Please note all RDA amounts mentioned below are based on the daily requirements for the average adult leading a normal lifestyle.
Selenium – RDA 55 micrograms
In America, the The National Institutes of Health reported that too much selenium in the blood can cause hair loss. Whilst some foodstuffs, including eggs and vitamin drinks, are available in selenium-enriched formulas, it is actually brazil nuts pack the biggest punch here. These festive favourites are loaded with the nutrient and as just one or two brazil nuts contain the full recommended allowance, these snacks can easily tip you over the limit.
Vitamin A – RDA 800 micrograms
Vitamin A is not only found in food and drinks but is also present in acne medications such as Accutane and Roaccutane. In approved doses it helps healthy hair growth but, if this is regularly exceeded, can lead to blurred vision, vomiting and hairloss. As Vitamin A is fat-soluble, the body takes what it needs and stores the rest for later use, making it easier to unwittingly overdo it. It is worth noting that just 100 grams of carrots – which is the equivalent of one large carrot – weighs in at 334% of the RDA target. so you do not need to consume Vitamin A daily.
Zinc – RDA 10 milligrams
Often found in vitamin drinks and in natural cold remedies, including throat lozenges, it can be easy to accidentally include too much zinc in your diet – especially as so little is needed. Necessary for hair growth, a zinc deficiency will prevent this phase of the hair production cycle from taking place and lead to hair loss. Similarly, according to The Nutritional Supplements Health Guide, if there is an abundance of zinc in the system, it can also cause hair loss so it is important to get the balance right.
Vitamin E – RDA 3 milligrams (women) 4 milligrams (men)
Whilst there is not enough evidence to state for certain what the effects are for regularly exceeding the recommended amount of vitamin E per day, researchers have found a number of unpleasant potential side effects connected to taking large amounts of vitamin E via supplements, as opposed to from naturally occurring food sources. These include a John Hopkins University study in 2004 which found “nine of 11 trials involving high-dose vitamin E (400 IU per day, or more) showed an increased risk of death”, and a 2013 paper published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, relating to how high level vitamin E consumption can increase the risk of bleeding in patients taking anticoagulant therapy. Anticoagulant medications include warfarin and heparin. It is this association which may lead to thinning hair should increased bleeding occur and cause iron-deficiency anaemia. Anyone with medical concerns should always discuss their diet and any food supplement use with their medical team to check for any potential negative interactions.
Dealing with Telogen Effluvium hair loss
In order to combat hair loss caused by having an excess of certain nutrients in your blood, the first thing to address is your diet.
Examine your intake of food, drinks, supplements and medicines to make sure you understand how these imbalances came about in order to rectify your habits. Keeping a food diary can help you to identify where the excess may be creeping in and keep you on track afterwards.
Telogen Effluvium is the most common cause of hair loss from nutritional deficiencies and medication side-effects. It is temporary and causes thinning all over the scalp.
Once you have addressed the root cause, it should clear up in no longer than six months’ time. The hair will generally regrow on its own, however, treatment for Telogen Effluvium can help to speed up the regrowth process. This generally involves daily, topical applications of high strength minoxidil to help stimulate the affected areas.
Telogen Effluvium can exacerbate or trigger hereditary hair loss in both men and women with a genetic predisposition. So if you have any concerns regarding unusual levels of shedding, it is always best to get professional advice from a hair loss specialist.
All information correct as at May 2015
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.