Sugar and Hair Loss.
Updated: Dec 17, 2018
Researchers believe that numerous factors contribute to hair loss in men and women. Until recently, it was believed that what you ate had nothing to do with your risk of going bald. However, recent studies have indicated that eating a diet high in simple sugars increases your chances of going bald dramatically.
Did you know that diet plays a large role in determining if you go bald? Research since 2000 has backed this idea when an iconic Finnish study found that men who had a higher insulin resistance were more likely to lose their hair.
Your diet gives you the building blocks necessary to support a healthy body, and if you do not give it the building blocks it needs to produce healthy hair, it won’t. Since the initial Finnish study, multiple other studies have shown that what you eat can determine if you lose your hair.
The biggest two culprits to the health of a person’s hair- whether they were men or women- were sugar and refined grains.
Studies on Sugar and Hair Loss
The original study was conducted by Finnish researchers in 2000. This study found that men with high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and obesity were a lot more likely to be bald. This study suggests that a poor diet can trigger hair loss. The number one factor for developing a resistance to insulin is a diet laden with sugar.
Sugar comes both from actual sources of sugar, like sugar cane and corn syrup, and from refined grains. The body converts refined grains into glucose in the body- which can even be converted into fructose by the liver in some cases. When sugar hits the bloodstream, insulin is produced to manage the sugar and carry to other parts of the body.
Eventually, your body develops a resistance to the insulin that moves sugar, and you have to continually produce more and more to remove excess sugar. This will lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes if the cycle of sugar/insulin resistance is not stopped.
In 2003, researchers from Finland examined women with hair loss to determine if the same sugar/carbohydrate and insulin resistance link existed in females. The researchers found that women with high insulin resistance had a significantly higher risk of developing androgenic alopecia (AGA) hair loss.
In 2009, researchers from Taiwan, Mexico, and Turkey again looked at the same issue that the researchers from Finland examined 9 years before. All three studies concluded that the original study was correct. Men with insulin resistance are more likely to be bald.
What was even more surprising, however, was that these studies found that a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar was the biggest contributing factor for insulin resistance and balding in both men and women.
The Link Between Sugar and Balding
Researchers do not really know why a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates contributes to balding in men and women. When researchers examined if eating a healthy diet could reverse balding, they found that eliminating sugar and carbs was not enough to reverse the damage that already occurred due to a diet high in sugar.
However, there is some research that supports the idea that switching to a healthy diet can prevent future hair loss. In 1928, explorer Karsten Anderson conducted the Bellevue Study. This study had the participants lock themselves inside a hospital and eat nothing but meat for a year. This was an extreme form of diet that contained zero carbohydrates.
Although eating meat only is not healthy for long-term use, this is one of the only studies that examined the role of carbohydrates and sugar in balding. At the end of the year, Anderson, who was balding at the start of the study, had not lost any additional hair.
One possible theory for hair loss caused by sugar is a lack of protein. Hair is mainly protein, and if you do not have enough protein in your body, then your hair cannot grow effectively.
Another theory is that the essential vitamins necessary for hair growth, like vitamin E, copper, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, and selenium, and other vitamins and trace minerals are simply not present in a sugar-based diet. With a lack of these ingredients, hair simply cannot engage in the proper ebb and flow that gives a person healthy hair.
Another possible theory is the idea that what you eat affects the hormone levels in your body. A diet high in sugar, chemicals, and inflammation-causing foods (carbs and omega 6 fats are highly inflaming) may cause a hormone imbalance. Without the right hormone balance, the body cannot produce the right hormones linked to the growth of healthy hair.
One common hormone that is linked to hair loss is DHT. DHT is a harsher form of testosterone (both men and women can have some levels of DHT) that causes the development of pubic hair, the onset of puberty in boys, and the enlargement of the prostate as men age. High levels of DHT contribute to hair loss.
A diet high in sugar and chemicals combined with a lack of vitamins makes it challenging for the body to control the production of DHT. A healthy diet eliminates excess DHT from the body so that it cannot cause hair loss.
Other Lifestyle Triggers for Hair Loss
The studies listed above found that there were other contributing factors for hair loss in addition to sugar. Although sugar and insulin resistance was one of the main triggers, the following substances and conditions were also linked to a greater chance of hair loss:
The studies revealed that men who drank higher levels of caffeine were more likely to have hair loss as they age. One possible reason for this connection could be that caffeine triggers the stress response in the body. High levels of stress are linked to a greater likelihood of future hair loss.
Are you constantly stressed? If you don’t relax you might be contributing to your hair loss. The studies found that men and women who led a more stressful lifestyle were more likely to lose their hair.
Researchers found that certain fatty acids helped protect hair while others interfered with hair health. A diet high in omega 6 fatty acids was more likely to lead to an increased risk of hair loss, while omega 3 fatty acids protected hair health.
Men and women who smoked were more likely to see hair loss in greater amounts than men and women who abstained from smoking.
Men and women who drank more than 1-2 glasses of an alcoholic beverage per night had a higher chance of balding as they aged.
Researchers found that participants in the studies had dandruff, they had a higher risk of losing their hair as they age.
Stop Eating Grains and Sugar.
One simple way to stop the progression of your hair loss is to stop eating refined grains and sugar. These two ingredients are dangerous for your health and can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and a variety of other dangerous health conditions.
Hair loss is one of the most benign side effects of a diet high in sugar, but one of the most visible ones. However, losing your hair is also a contributing factor for an increased risk for other health problems. Several studies have linked crown baldness with an additional 70 percent risk for heart disease.
All forms of sugar can contribute to hair loss, but fructose may be the biggest contributing factor. Fructose is the sugar found in fruit, corn syrup, and refined sugar. In fact, the safest way to protect your hair from sugar-related hair loss is by avoiding all forms of sugar (anything ending in the suffix “ose”).
Other Steps to Prevent Hair Loss
Cutting out sugar can help you slow and stop the progression of hair loss, but it may not be enough to regain hair you have already lost. To do this, more drastic steps are necessary. If you want to maintain a healthy head of hair, employ the following three steps along with cutting out sugar and refined grains from your diet.
DHT is one of the main hormones responsible for hair loss. DHT, as mentioned above, is a stronger form of testosterone. One of the side effects of high levels of DHT includes removing hair from the top of your head and growing it other places on the body. As men age, they naturally gain higher levels of DHT (this can also happen to women). That is why many older men and women have greater amounts of body hair but less hair on top of their heads. You can block DHT with a variety of supplements as listed below:
Saw Palmetto: This herb is the most famous for stopping hair loss. In a multitude of studies, saw palmetto was shown to block DHT and reduce hair loss. Saw palmetto is also a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. In studies on men with hair loss, saw palmetto supplements can actually improve hair loss symptoms in about 60 percent of men and stop the progression of hair loss in even an even larger group.
Green Tea: Green tea can also stop the conversion of testosterone into DHT. According to studies, green tea is an effective blocker of DHT because it contains EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which inhibits 5-alpha reductase.
Phytosterol: This compound can block 5-alpha-reductase just like green tea and saw palmetto.
Eat Your Vitamins
Studies show that certain vitamins are essential for hair health. Vitamins and minerals that are particularly beneficial for hair include iron, copper, selenium, vitamin E, vitamin D, and magnesium. Choose foods with high levels of these ingredients to ensure your hair is healthy. Other ways to get more vitamins in your diet is by consuming a few healthy fats with every vegetable that you eat (like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, or palm oil) and avoiding vitamin-stealing foods like vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils, and junk food.
Some studies have linked high-stress levels with hair loss. Normally, this form of hair loss is not permanent, but a lifestyle full of chronic stress could contribute to faster hair loss. You can reduce your stress by engaging in stress-relieving practices, like yoga, conscious relaxing, other forms of exercise, and getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night.
Preventing Sugar-Related Hair Loss .
Your hair is an indicator of your overall health. Some researchers theorize that hair loss is not a simple part of aging. Rather, contributing lifestyle factors play a role in how long you keep your hair. Simply by avoiding sugar (and remembering that carbohydrates from processed grains are a source of sugar), you can cut back significantly on how much hair loss you see throughout your life.
Combine a low-sugar diet with DHT-blocking herbs and a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to retain your healthy hair for many decades. Even if you have already experienced significant hair loss, cutting back on sugar can help stop further progression, while blocking DHT could result in a re-growth of some of your already-thinning hair.
Sultan C et al. J Steroid Biochem 1984;20(1):515-519.
Credit to progressivehealth