Your weight loss could be the cause of your hair loss!
While losing weight might be the ultimate goal for some, our bodies are extremely sensitive to nutrient deficiencies, stress, and hormonal changes, all of which can happen as a result of rapid weight loss, restrictive diets, or even weight loss surgery.
So how do you prevent hair loss from a happy result of your hard work at losing weight? Studies have found that nutrient deficiency due to weight loss could result in hair loss three months after significant weight loss. Not only that, you could get acute telogen effluvium (TE), one of the most common causes of hair loss, and this condition could last up to six months!
Other types of hair loss, like chronic TE which can last longer than 6 months, and androgenic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness, can also strike as a result of crash dieting and a sudden lack of nutrients.
This is also the reason why some patients find that hair loss is their next concern, after a successful bariatric surgery. Some are truly puzzled that there is even a link between successful weight loss and hair loss.
So, the pressing issue is, in Singapore, with food so easily accessible and plentiful, how can you lose hair due to lack of nutrition and nutrients? Most importantly, how do you lose weight without losing your hair?
Crash diets can cause hair loss!
Since 1970, there has been research to support the fact that hair loss could be directly linked to crash diets. Healthy hair needs adequate nutrients and calories to grow properly. When your body doesn’t have enough of what it needs to be healthy, hair loss can occur as an unwelcome side effect. Numerous studies have linked rapid weight loss, calorie restriction, nutrient deficiencies, and psychological stress to weight loss.
In fact, in a research study of 180 women with diffuse hair loss in 2015, the conclusion is that the most common cause of hair loss was due to iron deficiency. Out of 180 women, 8 were found to be on crash diets which led to deficiencies in essential fatty acids, zinc, protein, and overall calories.
In another study of 100 people, protein malnutrition was the cause of their hair loss. Researchers found that large percentages of people with hair loss due to several types of alopecia, including androgenic alopecia and TE, exhibited deficiencies in specific amino acids, such as histidine, leucine, valine, and cysteine.
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are essential for hair growth and are necessary for the production of keratin, the main structural protein of hair. If you don’t eat enough proteins and your protein needs are not met, your body will prioritise important protein-dependent functions like tissue repair, digestion, pH and water balance regulation and hormone production over hair growth. As hair growth isn’t as important as the other functions, hair loss occurs.
Weight loss surgeries
More alarming is actually weight loss surgeries. In a 2018 research study of 50 people who underwent sleeve gastrectomy which removes a large portion of the stomach, hair loss was a common side effect in 56% of the patients, more common in women. A study later done in 2020 on 112 women was even more alarming. 72% of participants reported hair loss after surgery. Out of that number of women who reported hair loss, 79% of them found that it only started 3 – 4 months after surgery and it lasted for an average of 5.5 months. Why does that happen? Some types of weight loss surgery allow food to bypass part of the intestines, leading to malabsorption of nutrients and increasing the risk of deficiencies, in addition to reducing stomach capacity. Before going for such an invasive surgery, be sure to discuss the side effects with your doctor.
Nutrients Your Hair Needs
In a nutshell, your hair needs the following nutrients, iron, zinc, protein, selenium, vitamin B12, protein, amino acids and essential fatty acids. If you are deficient in any of or all of the above, hair loss will definitely occur. This is the reason why hair supplements are so popular and effective, if indeed, your hair loss is due to nutrient deficiency. Do remember not to self diagnose either, as there are other causes of weight loss that contribute to a loss of hair. It is best to see a doctor who is able to diagnose the cause properly, so you can be sure that your hair loss is due to weight loss, after all, there are eighteen causes of hair loss and identifying the cause behind your issue ensures that an effective treatment plan can be drawn up!
References and further reading:
- Jacques, J. (2011). Weight-loss surgery, nutrition, and hair loss.
- Guo, EL, & Katta, R. (2017). Diet and hair loss: Effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use.
- Hair loss. (2020).
- Tips for minimising hair loss after weight-loss surgery. (2013).
- Zhang, W, et al. (2021). Hair loss after metabolic and bariatric surgery: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Ruiz-Tovar, J. (2014). Hair loss in females after sleeve gastrectomy: Predictive value of serum zinc and iron levels.
- Manzoni, APDS, & Weber, MB. (2015). Skin changes after bariatric surgery.
- Shaw, L. (2016). Coping with hair loss after bariatric surgery.