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First things first: There are many causes of hair loss in men, many rooted in genetics. Some of these hair loss conditions can be treated with hair loss solutions such as laser hair therapy and hair transplant surgery, others with medicine and chemicals, and others can’t be treated at all.
There’s much that can be done by way of changing habits towards the goal of preventing hair loss, such as diet. But to a small degree, what a man eats can affect the health of his hair (and skin). A primer:
Generally healthy foods. Everything you’ve ever heard or read about basic healthy eating – mostly fruits and vegetables, lower-fat meats, pork, and chicken; fish; whole grains; and minimal processed carbohydrates/sugar – apply to skin and hair health as much the rest of your body. A good balance of nutrients and fiber, with lots of variety and nothing to excess, is smart for the body as well as the hair.
The Mediterranean diet might actually work. A recent study (“Mediterranean diet: fresh herbs and fresh vegetables decrease the risk of Androgenetic Alopecia in males,” Fortes, Mastroeni, et al, Archives of Dermatological Research, 2017) looked at the effects of diet on male pattern baldness, the most common cause of hair loss with genetic roots. It involved consumption three or more times per week of raw vegetables and fresh herbs, which reportedly did what the study title claims. That said, it was a single study of about 200 men, half of whom were in the placebo “control” group.
Proteins. Hair itself is made of protein, keratin to be specific (the same thing that our fingernails are made of). A deficiency in protein, which comes from plant and animal sources, would impair hair growth. Some vegans are protein deficient.
Deep dieting. This relates to the protein deficiency problem, but it’s about the other nutrients that are important to health overall and hair health in particular. When a person goes on a severe, calorie-restricted diet, the other organs of the body take precedence over hair. Therefore, the nutrients then become limited at your scalp. This is why individuals who are starved to a severe degree often have lost their hair.
Sugar gone wild. Everyone likes dessert, but dessert every day – and multiple times per day – can raise insulin levels, which damages blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to the scalp. That means fewer necessary nutrients are reaching the hair follicles. Note: sweet, creamy coffee drinks can have a whopping 36 grams of sugar, almost half the recommended daily total intake – and some people think it’s breakfast.
Mercury in fish. Fish is great, but too much of anything can be bad. Unfortunately, mercury in the aquatic food chain builds up in the higher species (swordfish, marlin, king mackerel, ahi tuna, and shark among them). The known links between mercury and hair loss are correlations, not causations, but the hypothesis is being explored further.
Deficiencies in iron, Vitamin D, Zinc, Vitamin B12. Each of these have to do with the building blocks of hair health. Getting enough can come from a healthy, balanced diet (protein, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit). But supplementation might be preferred if for any reason you are unable to eat properly.
Selenium and Vitamin A toxicity. Most Western diets have a sufficient amount of both of these nutrients. But some people inadvertently overdo it with multi-vitamins, which in the case of Selenium and Vitamin A can cause problems.
If you’re concerned about hair loss due to genetics, it might help to consider the marathon runner. Most of his or her performance is a function of genetics and training. But the food counts for something, and the difference can be noticeable. So eat your vegetables.