Most people associate hair loss with aging; but people of any age can lose excessive amounts of hair when they aren’t getting the nutrition their body needs. In this crazy world of crash diets, diet pills, and liquid diets, we often set our bodies up for disaster caused by nutritional depletion. Before attempting to lose a significant amount of weight, or even a small amount very quickly, make sure you understand the needs of your hair.
It is easiest to understand why hair can be affected by rapid weight loss when you consider what a hair is made of. The hair shaft, the only part of the hair above the scalp, is made of keratinized protein. The shaft has three layers: the outer cuticle, the middle cortex, and the inner medulla; all of which are made of protein. While other vitamins and minerals are required for healthy hair growth, protein makes up 91% of the actual hair shaft.
It is natural to lose anywhere from 50 to 150 hairs a day from your hair growth cycle. A single hair will grow for 2 to 7 years, slowly detach from its dermal papilla, and begin to “rest” for a period of 2 to 4 months, and then fall out naturally or when another hair pushes it out of its follicle.
Hair loss surgeons Dr. Ken Williams of Irvine, California, agrees with nutrition playing a vital role in keeping the hair thick and healthy. “When the body isn’t obtaining the proper nutrients and vitamins, simple physiology dictates the growing hair is potentially compromised. We call call it Telogen Effluvium. ” Williams adds, ” it may take approximately 2 months after the start of the diet to start losing hair. Once the hair loss begins it is likely to fall out in excess amounts over a short period of time.”
Any diet that causes you to drop more than 2 pounds a week could potentially cause hair loss. The body simply cannot function maximally with so little sustenance. Losing weight too quickly can also weaken the immune system and increases the chances for infection. The fact of the matter is crash diets and rapid weight loss is an all-around bad idea.
Protein is absolutely the most important nutrient for hair growth. If you’re trying to lose weight, stay away from red meats like beef, which contain more fat, and instead opt for low-fat white meats such as fish, chicken, and ground turkey. If you’re trying to lose weight by not eating meat, be sure to get your daily protein requirements from foods like beans, lentils, or tofu.
Zinc, vitamin A, biotin, and vitamin B12 are also important for hair growth. If you suspect your diet may cause a deficiency of any of these nutrients you should consider a dietary supplement to keep hair healthy and strong.