People are often interested in knowing about the links between diet and hair loss, focusing on food and nutrient intakes – but what we drink can be equally as important.
Water is vital for the proper functioning of numerous bodily functions, including the hair growth cycle. However, a 2015 survey by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution found 89 per cent of UK adults were drinking less than the recommended 2 litres per day required for good hydration. Shockingly, 13 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men said they drank no water at all.
Whilst alcohol has a generally drying effect on the body, it is not considered significant in relation to hair loss when consumed responsibly and in moderation. If alcohol consumption turns to alcoholism, where there are regular patterns of excessive intake, this can be an issue, leading to dry, weakened and thinning hair.
Now, new research has discovered that even a single session of binge drinking, involving four alcoholic drinks consumed in one sitting, can cause sleep problems known to contribute to hair loss.
Sporadic excessive alcohol consumption
Data released by the Office for National Statistics regarding the 2017 drinking habits of adults in Great Britain shows that 29.2 million people drink alcohol in the UK. It states that men (61.9%) are more likely to drink than women (52.4%), with the 45 to 64 years age group having the highest alcohol consumption levels. When it comes to the 16 to 24 year old age group, although this has the lowest levels of alcohol consumption, it is also the category most likely to binge drink, with their heaviest drinking days being higher than those seen among other age brackets.
Binge drinking among those aged 65 years and older was the least prevalent, though men in this demographic (14.7%) were almost twice as likely as women (7.6%) to participate when they did indulge.
The report states: ‘The generally higher levels of binge drinking among those aged 16 to 24 years could be due to the data capturing those who tend to drink excessively on Friday or Saturday nights and then not much else during the rest of the week.’
In the USA, it is estimated that one in every six adults binge drinks at least four times per month, according to its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Effects of binge drinking on sleep
Research from May 2018 published in the Journal of Neurochemistry shows how researchers from the University of Missouri – Columbia, USA, explored the effects of binge drinking on sleep patterns.
Through conducting mice trials, it was established that just one session of binge drinking – where at least four alcoholic drinks were consumed in one session – was sufficient to down-regulate a crucial gene involved in achieving restful sleep. This is known as the equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (ENT1) and meant that sleep disturbances could occur a result.
The Futurity.org website quotes the study’s lead author, professor and director of research at the University of Missouri School of Medicine’s neurology department, Mahesh Thakkar commenting on this work.
“Sleep is a serious problem for alcoholics,” he says. “If you binge drink, the second day you will feel sleep deprived and will need to drink even more alcohol to go to sleep. It is a dangerous cycle. How can we stop this cycle or prevent it before it begins? To answer that question, we need to understand the mechanisms involved. What we have shown in this research is that a particular gene—which is very important for sleep homeostasis—is altered by just one session of binge drinking,” Thakkar says. “We were not expecting this. We thought it would be affected after multiple sessions of binge drinking, not one. That tells you that as soon as you consume four drinks, it can alter your genes.”
Sleep disruption and hair loss
In addition to exacerbating existing cases of Male Pattern Baldness or, the women’s equivalent, Female Pattern Hair Loss, it can also prematurely trigger these hereditary conditions in people with an underlying genetic predisposition. Furthermore, it can cause the temporary conditions Telogen Effluvium – which presents as up to 60 per cent hair rapidly shedding from all over the scalp and lasts around six months – or the chronic form, Diffuse Thinning, which can last longer.
On-going problems with sleep disruption have also been linked to a higher chance of developing diabetes – a health issue also known to cause hair loss as a side effect. It is also more likely to lead to unhealthy food and lifestyle choices, including smoking.
Whilst there are hair loss treatment solutions available for all these different conditions, prevention is certainly possible in many cases. When visiting Belgravia for a consultation, a hair specialist will discuss your lifestyle in addition to taking a medical history, in order to see if there any issues that may be contributing to excess hair fall, and a balanced lifestyle – including healthy eating, regular exercise and solid stress management – are always advisable.
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.