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Can a Diet Cause Hair Loss?

Katelyn Hagerty

Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Published 04/17/2023

Hair loss can happen for many reasons, from a person’s genetic makeup to their hormones. So it’s not out of the question to wonder if you can experience hair loss on a diet.

When your hair seems to be falling out right before your eyes or your hairline recedes more and more every day, you might be frantically trying to figure out the cause.

We’ll save you the trouble of searching “hair loss from diet.” Instead, we’ll explain if there’s a connection between dieting and hair loss and go over the most common forms of hair loss.

Can I Experience Hair Loss on Diet?

Can you experience hair loss on a diet? The short answer is maybe. We know — it’s probably not quite the answer you’re looking for. But we’ll get there.

Hair loss is a common problem for men, usually starting later in age — although it can affect men in their twenties as well. It’s also completely normal to lose around 100 hairs per day.

Hair is made up of two main structures — the hair shaft (what we see) and hair follicles underneath the skin from which hair grows. 

The hair growth cycle undergoes three phases:

  • Anagen phase. This phase occurs when hair is growing and can last several years.

  • Catagen phase. This is a short transitional phase of a few weeks.

  • Telogen phase. The telogen phase is a rest phase of three to four months, at the end of which the hair falls out and new hair strands in the hair follicles.

As mentioned earlier, hair loss can have several causes, and we know that diet plays a role in our well-being. There are even certain foods to eat for hair growth. So could dieting hair loss happen to you?

Keep reading to learn about the effect diet has on hair loss.

Weight Loss from Dieting

You might experience hair loss after losing weight, but probably not after you’ve lost weight over an extended period. This usually occurs in people who’ve had a sudden weight loss or rapid weight loss from crash dieting, which is associated with malnutrition.

One example is after weight loss surgery — also known as bariatric surgery. A review of multiple studies found that 57 percent of those who had undergone weight loss surgery experienced a loss of hair afterward.

Research suggests that hair loss after weight loss surgery can occur within three months of the surgery or six or more months after surgery.

The hair loss experienced six or more months after surgery may have been caused by nutrient deficiencies, a possible result of weight loss surgery.

Telogen effluvium, one type of hair loss, is a well-known side effect of sudden weight loss. Our guide to weight loss and hair loss goes into more detail on how one affects the other.

Low-Calorie or Restrictive Diet

Hair follicle cells happen to be the most rapidly dividing cells in the body, meaning hair growth uses a lot of energy. Certain nutrient deficiencies might contribute to hair loss — although the why behind this isn’t entirely clear.

Restricting your calorie intake, for example, could result in not getting the right amounts of micronutrients, which are important for many bodily functions.

A study of 104 people who went on a low-calorie diet found that many had nutrient deficiencies after three months.

Restrictive diets or significant weight loss (particularly after weight loss surgery) can also impact the nutrients your body is getting.

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Malnutrition Hair Loss

As noted, hair follicles are the most metabolically active, meaning the hair growth cycle can be impacted by malnutrition.

What we eat — or don’t eat — can have some impact on hair loss, specifically nutritional deficiencies through vitamins, minerals and other micronutrient deficiencies affecting hair structure and growth.

Vitamins and minerals from food play an important role in the hair growth cycle — although the link isn’t entirely clear, according to a review of multiple studies.

These studies suggest nutrient deficiencies in iron, zinc, protein, several vitamins and other nutrients are associated with hair loss.

Iron

An iron deficiency may cause hair loss. Iron helps carry oxygen for the growth and repair of cells, including those that produce hemoglobin, which is crucial for hair growth.

Vitamin D

This fat-soluble vitamin plays an essential role in healthy bones, reducing inflammation, a healthy immune system and more. A vitamin D deficiency could result in hair loss.

A review of multiple studies found that vitamin D levels were lower in people with hair loss conditions, including diffuse hair loss and a medical condition called alopecia areata — another type of hair loss.

Protein

Your protein intake is also crucial for healthy hair, with deficiencies in protein resulting in hair loss or thinning.

When you consume a source of protein, your digestive system breaks it down into essential amino acids that then create and repair tissue, among other functions.

Without amino acids from adequate protein intake, your body and all its proteins — including those that make up your hair — wouldn’t be physically possible.

Lean meat is a good source of protein, as well as poultry and eggs. Beans are another adequate source of protein.

Zinc

An essential mineral the body can’t produce on its own, zinc can be found in many foods such as beef, pork, chicken, beans and nuts.

Some research has found that men with male pattern baldness have a zinc deficiency. However, there’s no definitive proof that zinc can slow down or reverse male pattern baldness.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

This type of fatty acid, a common oil found in many kinds of fish, is vital for several bodily functions — including possibly promoting hair growth.

A study from 2018 found that mackerel oil extract lengthened hair fibers and promoted growth. However, this study was conducted on mice, and there’s currently no credible research done on humans.

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What to Do About Dieting Hair Loss 

Dieting hair loss is a possibility. However, some hair loss conditions — androgenetic alopecia, for instance — are primarily caused by genetics and hormones rather than dietary practices.

In other words, a healthy diet by itself won’t stop you from getting a receding hairline or going bald if you’re genetically prone to hair loss.

There’s no cure for hair loss caused by male pattern baldness and androgenetic alopecia, but there are several proven treatments that can either stop or reverse hair loss in men. 

Medications like finasteride block the hormones that cause hair loss. Or medications like minoxidil encourage hair growth for thicker, fuller locks.

We offer both finasteride and minoxidil as part of our full range of men’s hair loss treatments.

Should I Use Supplements?

While using supplements to try and reverse a nutrient or vitamin deficiency may be tempting, you might want to consult with your healthcare provider first.

That’s because consuming certain dietary supplements might actually cause hair loss if you don’t already have a deficiency.

Another common solution you might see for hair loss is biotin supplements. However, there’s limited research on the benefits of biotin for hair regrowth.

Biotin supplements may help those who have thinning hair from a biotin deficiency, but this is quite rare for many people.

Many hair-growth supplements also aren’t regulated by the FDA in the same way as medications, leaving safety and effectiveness reviews up to the companies that make them. 

Some supplements may also interact with medications, so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any for hair regrowth.

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Hair Loss From Diet: Fact or Fiction?

They say you are what you eat. So, can you experience hair loss on a diet? Maybe.

Consider these facts:

  • Hair loss has been associated with significant weight loss over a short period, especially in those who have undergone weight loss surgery. These surgeries can result in acute hair loss or hair loss six months after the weight loss.

  • An extremely restrictive diet (either of calories or certain foods or nutrients) might affect hair growth. Fewer calories and nutrients can impact many bodily functions.

  • Certain nutrients may play a role in hair health, such as iron, protein and vitamin D. While more research is needed on the connection between diet and hair loss, eating a balanced diet of foods rich in the above-mentioned nutrients may help promote hair growth and at least improve your overall well-being.

Diet is possibly just one of many factors involved with hair loss and may or may not play a role in your specific type of hair loss. There may also be a connection between marijuana and hair loss.

More research is needed to fully understand the effects of hair loss on diet.

Still, talking to your healthcare provider or a dermatologist can help you narrow down the possible causes of your hair loss and figure out the next steps to take for hair loss treatment. Explore your options at Hims today.

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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.