If you had to make just one change that would affect every aspect of your health, fitness, and vanity, you would have to choose diet. An all-natural diet that complies with the new food pyramid minimizes the majority of common American health risks. A low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet rich in fruits and vegetables keeps you in the 30% of Americans who are not obese and at-risk of diabetes and heart disease. A healthy diet dramatically reduces your risk of several cancers while it improves your complexion and does actually slow hair loss.
Diet does affect hair loss.
Although genetics and hormones contribute more to hair loss than diet ever could, nevertheless diet plays a more prominent role than scientists once thought. So, yes, your diet does affect your hair loss, and common sense does prevail in these conversations. As much as you must pay attention to vital nutrients in order to keep your hair, you also must guard against too much of a good thing. Excessive doses of Vitamin A actually cause hair loss. Moreover, supplements do not substitute for vitamins and minerals found in healthy foods. And no one is likely to keel over from shock and awe when he or she learns that a “heart-healthy” diet doubles as a “hair-healthy” diet.
Can diet beat genetics and biochemistry?
No, eat all the green vegetables and salmon you can handle, and you will slow but cannot stop the process. Male and female pattern baldness run in families. Scientists have not quite isolated the place on the genome that determines your pilary destiny, but the phenotype charts do not lie. Study the photos on your family tree to predict your fate. According to the experts, you have a 57% chance of inheriting the baldness gene. Pay more attention, however, to your endocrine system, because the baldness gene probably triggers the body’s production of DHT, and powerful androgen that drives the process of “follicular miniaturization.” Women begin losing their hair at menopause, because their estrogen levels drop while their testosterone levels remain more or less constant. Add the influence of DHT, and hair begins staying more in the brush and less on the scalp. The influence of DHT in men seems vaguely counter-intuitive, because increases in androgens typically trigger increased hair growth. DHT defies the rule…and researchers’ understanding.
What should a person eat to slow hair loss?
Hilary Parker lists the top ten foods for slowing hair loss on WebMD.com, and she elaborates the precise reasons why each food delivers the right stuff for keeping your hair healthy and securely attached to your head. According to Parker, salmon tops the list because of its exceptional concentrations of vitamin B-12, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. Dark green vegetables rank second, because they provide vitamins A and C, and they contain lots of iron and calcium. Beans come-in a respectable third, because they provide a prime source of protein and come loaded with iron, zinc, and biotin. Unheralded zinc and biotin emerge as key variables in this delicate equation. When lab rats were deprived of zinc and biotin, they lost all of their hair. Nuts place fourth because they, too, are rich in zinc; and they also deliver lots of selenium, one of your scalp’s best friends. Poultry rounds-out the top five on the strength of its high-quality protein. A quick review of the list highlights how much you already knew about a balanced, healthy diet, and the list easily could be reduced to the instruction, “follow the new food pyramid.”
A note about products
Some of the most popular conditioners for thickening air actually do considerably more harm than good. The three best-selling products use silicone—essentially the equivalent of “WD40”—to untangle, soften, and thicken hair; and dry hair greedily soaks-up that stuff like a thirsty man in the desert drinks-up water. In addition to a healthy diet, healthy shampoos and conditioners reduce hair loss. When you read product labels, pay attention to a subtle nuance in language: “Natural” and “all natural” satisfy two very different truth-in-advertising standards; and, of course, all-natural is the better of the two. The very best, however, is “vegan,” which certifies the product is both kind to animals and to your hair.
You already had every good reason to put yourself on a healthy diet. Now, however, your pet vanity pushes you harder than ever toward the produce aisle, promising all those leafy greens will help you keep your hair.
Noah Mann works with patients of all types on hair loss options. He provides information on the many myths and tips about hair loss at www.fasthairgrowth.org.