Diet and Hair Fall: Are They Connected?

A loss of 50 to 100 hair strands each day is quite common. But, excessive hair fall that causes unusual thinning or bald patches on the head can be considered to be a matter of grave concern. Hair loss becomes a serious issue for some, who in their haste to lose weight rapidly, adopt a diet without giving a second thought to it. With more and more hair falling off the crown, many tend to blame their newly adopted style of eating for shedding those extra pounds and fall back to their old unhealthy eating habits. But, is a diet really to blame for hair loss? Can a simple change in the dietary plan cause excessive hair fall? Read on and find out if your diet is making you lose your hair.

Understanding the hair growth cycle

Hair growth takes place in four phases namely the anagen phase, the catagen phase, the telogen phase and the exogen phase.

  • The Anagen Phase – This is the growing phase in the hair growth cycle during which the cells of the hair bulb divide rapidly, causing new hair to grow. This phase usually lasts between two and seven years. Longer the hair, longer the anagen phase. 
  • The Catagen Phase – This is the transitional phase in the cycle during which the hair stops growing by detaching itself from the blood supply. The phase hardly lasts for two or three weeks. 
  • The Telogen Phase – This is the resting phase in the cycle which indicates that the previously grown hair rests while a new hair starts growing underneath it. The time period of this phase is around three months.  
  • The Exogen Phase – The last phase is the shedding phase in the hair growth cycle. During this phase, the resting hair detaches and falls off.  

It is due to the exogen phase that you lose around 50-100 hair strands each day which is completely normal. But, it turns into a point of concern when suddenly you start losing more hair than you usually lose during the last phase of the hair growth cycle. While there can be a number of reasons responsible for causing this excessive hair fall, an imbalanced diet may also be an underlying cause of it.

Is your new weight-loss diet causing hair fall?

Some of us search for diets that would help us rapidly lose weight upon realizing that we have gained some extra pounds. Without giving a second thought, we tend to follow certain diets and fail to analyze its effects on our bodies. When we take up a fat-loss diet, we are essentially putting our body into a caloric deficit. Different components of our body then start responding to this changed calorie intake, and hair follicles are one of them. Being one of the most metabolically active tissues, there is a possibility that hair growth may get impacted by manipulation in calorie and protein intake.

According to a study, Telogen Effluvium, a form of temporary hair loss which occurs due to the change in the number of hair follicles, is an effect of rapid weight loss and decreased calorie intake. Another study states that nutritional deficiencies such as that of micronutrients affect both hair growth as well as hair structure. Guo El et al further claimed that hair loss is also experienced due to some micronutrient deficiencies. These nutrient deficiencies may arise due to genetic factors, medical conditions, and/or dietary practices such as omitting various food groups and staying in larger calorie deficit states for prolonged times.

Common nutrient deficiencies that cause hair fall

  • The niacin deficiency causes diffuse alopecia that decreased hair density. Niacin is nothing but Vitamin B3 which is generally important for maintaining good health. It can be found naturally in many foods, including meat, green vegetables, eggs, poultry and fish.  
  • Loss of scalp hair, eyebrows, and lightening of hair is observed in those suffering from a deficiency of essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Iron deficiency is a well-known cause for hair loss and the risk factor is greater in vegetarians and vegans due to lower consumption of heme iron which primarily comes from hemoglobin and myoglobin in animal-sourced foods.
  • Zinc deficiency is also correlated where its role in hedgehog signalling pathway affects hair follicle morphogenesis. The possibility of suffering from Zinc deficiency is higher in vegetarians due to shortage of zinc bioavailability in vegetables as compared to meat. 
  • Alopecia, that is bald patches, is also observed in biotin deficiency

Conclusion

It is very essential to understand that it is not the diet but an imbalanced diet which might be causing your hair fall. An imbalanced diet may result into deficiencies that in turn affect the hair growth. By planning a balanced diet that includes a variety of food groups such as dairy, fruits and vegetables, you will be providing your body with all the essential micronutrients. By eating adequate protein and calories, you will be able to keep the nutrient deficiencies at bay. Additionally, you can have supplements like a standard multivitamin tablet and fish oil which might prove to be beneficial.

About the Authors: Akshita Arora, Advanced Coach at FITTR and INFS Faculty & Ketki H is a wandering soul who loves travelling solo, and firmly believes in enjoying the journey rather than hurrying to the destination. Although a graduate in Mechanical Engineering, she took to writing for reaching the masses.

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