In early April 2018 NHS Digital published a report by the Office of National Statistics into Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet in England.
The findings covered the period from 31st March 2016 to 31st December 2017 and showed that 26 per cent of adults in England are obese. Additionally, obesity-related National Health Service (NHS) hospital admissions rose by 18 per cent year-on-year to 617,000.
Subsequent implications for the nation’s health are far wider-ranging than simply waist measurements, however. One incidental issue arising from what is now known globally as the ‘obesity crisis’ is an increased propensity towards hair loss for those affected.
When does being overweight become obesity?
The NHS advises that whether or not a person is overweight or obese is currently measured using a Body Mass Index (BMI) healthy weight tool. Although this can be helpful in providing a guideline, it is not accurate for everyone as it does not take into account factors such as muscle mass and ethnicity.
The BMI calculator tool is considered more accurate for Caucasians than for other races when the defining weight range thresholds may be lower.
Measuring the waist circumference is also thought to be useful, and is a method used by GPs. ‘People with very large waists – generally, 94cm (37in) or more in men and 80cm (about 31.5in) or more in women – are more likely to develop obesity-related health problems,’ states the NHS website.
The obesity crisis
The obesity crisis has been talked about for many years – and not just in the UK. However, this latest fact-finding mission relating specifically to England seems to have produced tangible evidence as to the current scale of the problem, and ways in which people are trying to combat it.
According to the NHS Digital statistics in 2016 there were 26 per cent of adults classified as obese – an increase of 15 per cent since 1993, though it has remained at a similar level for the past six years. Childhood obesity research indicated that one in ten reception-age children, and one in five year six children were obese.
Highlighting the health risks, the report states that there were 10,705 admissions to NHS hospitals in 2016/17 in which obesity was a primary factor, and 606,295 where it was a secondary diagnosis. Of these admissions, 66 per cent of patients were women.
The NHS explains: ‘Obesity reduces life expectancy by an average of 3 to 10 years, depending on how severe it is. It’s estimated that obesity and being overweight contribute to at least 1 in every 13 deaths in Europe.’
Does being obese cause hair loss?
Whilst being acutely overweight in itself is unlikely to cause hairloss, obesity can lead to an increased risk of developing many significant health issues -most of which are known to cause thinning hair. This can be either directly, or indirectly as a side-effect of medications used to treat these illnesses which include type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, stroke, sleep apnoea and certain types of cancer, namely breast cancer and bowel cancer.
Therefore, an inference regarding increasing cases of hair loss and its links to obesity, backed by some of the key facts highlighted in the NHS Digital report – particularly those regarding hospital admissions and lifestyle issues such as diet and exercise – is logical.
NHS Digital reports that in 2016 21 per cent of men and 25 per cent of women were classed as inactive, whilst only 24 per cent of men and 28 per cent of women consumed the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
Nutritional deficiencies can cause diffuse hair thinning all over the scalp from a temporary condition called Telogen Effluvium. Although it can affect both sexes, it is most prevalent in women. Once triggered it can take around three months to present and often hair regrowth will resume naturally within six months, except in chronic cases when the shedding – which can affect approximately 50 per cent of the scalp – lasts for a minimum of six months but is still considered temporary.
Telogen Effluvium can, however, cause people with an existing genetic predisposition to hereditary hair loss – male and female pattern baldness – to see increased thinning. It can also kickstart the early onset of these conditions in cases where the were genetically predisposed byt had not yet presented. Where this does happen and it is a concern, people wanting to explore regrowing hair and preventing baldness can speak to a specialist about personalised hair loss treatment options as clinically-proven medications can help in many cases.
Obesity may also be a contributing factor in the current statistical trend for both men and women increasingly experiencing hair loss from a younger age than previous generations. One of the issues various experts have linked to a rise in premature male pattern baldness among young men is something called oxidative stress. This is related to lifestyle issues such as nutritionally unbalanced diets, regular excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.
Women have traditionally tended to lose their hair later in life than men, now though – seemingly thanks to the pressures of modern life – stress is thought to be the driver behind more cases of female pattern hair loss being seen in women in their 20’s.
Losing weight without losing hair
For people wanting to get to a healthy weight, it is important that their weight loss journey involves a sensible long-term plan in relation to both exercise and eating, rather than relying on any ‘quick fix’ solutions. Extreme dieting, crash or fad diets and over-exercising can all be problematic and cause thinning hair – again, due to Telogen Effluvium – from the strain they place on the body.
In some cases, where the body receives a real shock to the system after intense measures are taken, sudden bald patches from the autoimmune condition Alopecia Areata may be induced. This is what happened to ‘super slimmer’ Mandy Ballard who lost 17 stone in just two years by following a punishing exercise and restrictive diet regime after having a gastric sleeve fitted. In many cases hair regrowth will resume within 12 months of its own accord, though alopecia areata treatment may help to accelerate this process.
Taking a measured approach to making balanced dietary and lifestyle changes – with the help of relevant professionals where needed – is the best way to prevent hair loss from bodily stresses and strain. Among the many benefits of having healthy body and diet rich in a range of nutritional elements, this can help to support the normal functioning of both blood circulation and the hair growth cycle for strong, vital locks. Should any abnormal shedding occur, however, there is help and support available so should not detract from achieving any goals.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. 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 UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.