As a new year begins peoples minds often turn to making changes in their lives, particularly when it comes to their diets.
Belgravia specialists are often asked how certain foods can affect hair loss - either by causing it, or, conversely, by encouraging healthy hair growth - specifically in relation to the genetic conditions, Male Pattern Baldness and Female Pattern Hair Loss.
Whilst there is no dietary solution that can treat a hair loss condition that is not the result of a nutritional imbalance, there are various vitamins and minerals which are known to support the maintenance of a normal healthy hair growth cycle. Most notable among these are zinc, biotin and selenium.
Additionally, researchers have found numerous ways in which the way we eat is linked to thinning hair and hairloss in both men and women. Here is a brief run down of some of their findings...
In 2015 a Copenhagen hair company published dermatological research which it claimed linked excess sugar consumption to thinning hair. As sugar leads to a rapid glucose spike which “causes an overreaction by several hormones, most notably insulin and steroids”, the findings suggest this can cause direct damage to the follicles.
As this results in severely fluctuating levels of glucose, insulin, steroids, adrenaline, testosterone and other hormones. One of these is dihydrotestosterone (DHT) - the testosterone derivative which binds to receptors in the hair follicles located along the top of the scalp, from hairline to crown, in people with a predisposition to genetic hair loss, causing gradually thinning hair and, in the case of men, can lead to baldness.
Sugar is also believed to inhibit the body's ability to deal with stress - which is a well-established cause of hair loss, albeit usually more temporary forms.
Whilst a sweet tooth alone is unlikely to result in balding, it is worth noting the negative effects excessive sugar in the diet may have on the hair, as a poor diet that is high in sugar is also known to cause oxidative stress. In turn, this has been seen to trigger premature Male Pattern Baldness in young men.
A Brazilian study from 2014, which was published in the PLoS One journal, tested the effects of a diet rich in saturated fats and/or polyunsaturated fatty acids on rats. The findings suggested that these, and especially canola oil which is often used for frying foods in, could cause elevated levels of DHT.
Furthermore, various studies have shown the link between regularly eating fried food and type 2 diabetes - a condition which is known to cause hair loss as a side effect. As the Harvard School of Public Health in America and the National University of Singapore's joint research, published in 2014, found, that "people who ate fried food at least once per week had a greater risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and that the risk increased as the frequency of fried food consumption increased. For instance, participants who ate fried foods 4-6 times per week had a 39% increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and those who ate fried foods 7 or more times per week had a 55% increased risk, compared with those who ate fried foods less than once per week."
Encouragingly, separate research published on 30th July 2018 in the Scientific Reports journal found that hair loss linked to a high fat diet could be reversed in clinical trials which used an experimental compound.
Another Singaporean study, this time in 2017 and carried out by the Singapore Chinese Health Study, folloewd the dietary habits of over 63,000 people for 11 years. One of the most significant findings from the resulting data was how the quartile which had consumed the most red meat was 23 per cent more likely to have developed diabetes than those in the quartile that had eaten the least. The biggest poultry eaters were also more likely to get diabetes, with an increased risk of 15 per cent.
There are two temporary hairloss conditions which are linked to diabetes - Telogen Effluvium and Diffuse Thinning (Chronic Telogen Effluvium). Each causes hair fall from all over the scalp, which appears to come on suddenly - and, as such, the shedding may seem alarming - but actually occurs around three months after being triggered. In addition to being caused by the hormonal fluctuations associated with diabetes, it can also arise as an adverse effect of diabetes medication.
Whilst these conditions may last for around six months or so, they can make existing cases of Male or Female Pattern Hair Loss worse, or - where there is an underlying genetic predisposition - can spark the premature onset of these types of hereditary hair loss.
As plant-based diets become more prevalent, the trend for dairy-free milk has really taken off. But, unlike its dairy counterparts, whether coconut milk, oat milk, soy or rice milk, none of these 'mylks' contain iodine.
Iodine is important for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland and, in 2017, researchers at the University of Surrey advised that thousands of people, especially women, were at risk of developing thyroid disorders if they did not replace their iodine source. This applied not just to vegans, but to anyone reducing their dairy intake and regularly drinking these 'free from' substitutes.
Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, and some of the medications used to treat them are well-known to cause thinning hair and hair loss.
Whilst genetic hair loss is - as the name suggests - hereditary and the result of many different genes, there are a number of factors which can influence its effects. Whilst the odd burger and chips, sugary treat or almond milkshake is likely to have little to no effect on your hair's health, regular consumption may well do. Therefore, it is wise to follow a balanced, healthy diet and lifestyle, at least the majority of the time, if you wish to help yourself to maintain a healthy mind, body and - of course - a healthy head of hair.
Although dietary changes may not reverse hair loss, they could help by at least not make things worse. And for those concerned about losing their hair, as soon as any shedding, receding, or a drop in hair density becomes apparent, a consultation with a dedicated hair specialist can provide you with a diagnosis, prognosis, advice and recommendations for a personalised hair loss treatment plan, so that you can take proactive steps towards preventing baldness.
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic 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 from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.