Sugar is currently a hot health topic due to its links to obesity, but now the omnipotent sweetener has also been associated with hair loss.
Bad for hair in two ways
There are multiple contributing factors that can lead to different forms of hair loss: for Male Pattern Baldness, it is down to genetics; for Traction Alopecia, it can be anything from hair extensions to braids. But many hair loss conditions are not being helped by an excess of sugar, says one expert, who claims the sweet stuff could be more damaging to our scalps than we think.
Yahoo Beauty explores the notion that too much sugar can lead to hair loss in an in-depth article that delves into the findings of dermatologist Panos Vasiloudes, Medical Director of Harklinikken, a global clinic which is headquartered in Copenhagen. He tells the author of the article that “a rapid glucose spike in the blood causes an overreaction by several hormones, most notably insulin and steroids.” These, he says, result in a “roller coaster” of sugar peaks and valleys high and low levels of glucose, insulin, steroids, adrenaline, testosterone and other hormones.
The problem, he asserts, is that these are detrimental to hair in two ways. “First is the direct damage that rapid blood sugar changes are causing to the hair,” he says. Next, is the indirect damage caused by fluctuating levels of insulin, cortisone, testosterone and DHT (the testosterone by-product which attacks hair follicles in people with a predisposition to genetic hair loss).
Malnourished, aged scalp
Mr Vasiloudes says that these shocks can result in significant, generalised hair thinning.
He agrees that the effects will not be noticed overnight; rather, he says, years of gorging out on the dessert menu will eventually lead to a poorly nourished scalp which could lead to hair loss. “Everyone should recognise the power of eating real food and can use diet as a powerful weapon against thin hair,” he tells Yahoo Beauty.
Excessive sugar consumption has previously been highlighted as a potential cause of hair loss. This is due to a high intake of sugar could lead to glycation, where proteins are broken down. In turn, this can lead to an ageing effect at a cellular level, causing the protein structures within the follicles to disintegrate.
Poor diet is also a primary cause of the temporary hair loss condition, Telogen Effluvium. This causes diffuse thinning from all over the scalp and, although it tends to last for no more than six months, it can trigger male or female pattern hair loss in those with an inherited predisposition. It is also possible to have both conditions occur simultaneously, making the hair look even thinner.
Salt and fats problematic, too
Other possible dietary causes of hair loss include too much salt which can lead to hypertension and thus affect the blood supply to the scalp; and fatty foods, the introduction of which into Japanese diets post WW2 has been cited as a reason for the possible increase in hair loss among Japanese men.
“People forget that hair and the scalp in particular are very much living parts of their body, and that the food they eat will naturally have an effect upon them," says Belgravia Hair Loss Specialist, Leonora Doclis. "Of course it would be misleading to suggest that healthy living will guarantee you keep your hair, as multiple genetic and lifestyle factors play a part in hair loss. But a good diet and good overall health can certainly play a part in keeping hair strong and looking vital.”
Following a balanced diet that does not exceed recommended daily allowances - be it of sugar or other elements such as saturated fats - is always a good idea, although not always practical. One simple way to top-up your intake of hair-friendly nutrients is to take a dietary supplement, such as Hair Vitalics, every day. If, after addressing any diet-related issues, you are still concerned about excessive shedding, it can be worth visiting a hair loss specialist for a professional assessment of your situation and treatment recommendations.