Does unhealthy eating contribute to hair loss?
I'm often asked if healthy eating helps slow genetic hair loss. In other words, does an apple a day keep the hair doctor away? We don’t really know how healthy eating slows hair low. However, what we do know is that unhealthy eating that leads to obesity does seem to accelerate hair loss.
Two studies support a relationship between obesity and hair loss
A 2011 study looked at the risk factors for male balding in policeman in Taiwan. Interestingly, young male policemen who were obese had much higher rates of male balding than thinner policemen.
In 2014, researchers from Taiwan explored whether there was a relationship between obesity the severity of male balding. They studied 142 men (average at 31 years) with male balding who were not using medicines for hair loss. The study showed that men with more severe hair loss tended to be more overweight than men with less severe hair loss. In fact, men who were overweight or obese had an approximately 3.5 fold greater risk for severe hair loss than men with more normal weights. In addition, young overweight or obese men had a nearly 5 fold increased risk of severe hair loss.
Does an apple a day keep the hair doctor away?
We don't really know the role of healthy eating - does it slow hair loss? That's unknown. What we do know is that the flip side appears true - that extremes of unhealthy eating leading to obesity do seem to be associated with accelerated hair loss. Overall, these two studies mentioned above do support the notion that being overweight might contribute in a negative manner to balding in men.
Further studies are needed to determine whether encouraging weight loss in obese patients could impact the rate of balding or the effectiveness of treatments for male balding.
Chao-Chun Y et al. Higher body mass index is associated with greater severity of alopecia in men with male-pattern androgenetic alopecia in Taiwan: A cross-sectional study. J Am Acad Dermatol 2014; 70; 297-302.
Su LH et al. Androgenetic alopecia in policemen: higher prevalence and different risk factors relative to the general population (KCIS no. 23). Arch Dermatol Res. 2011 Dec;303(10):753-61
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299