A low-carb or ketogenic diet can provide health benefits, like its ability to aid weight loss and manage diabetes. However, can a low carb diet cause hair loss? So far, there isn’t any significant research to suggest a low-carb or ketogenic diet causes hair loss. This article will help to shed more information on the topic.
In patients who have a low-carb diet and notice more hair falling out is can be due to:
- The calorie restriction they put their body through, limiting the nutritional supply to their hair
- The psychological stress being put on their body also causing hair to shed
- Protein, Iron and micro-nutrient deficiency as a consequence of a low-carb diet then causing hair loss
What is a low-carb or ketogenic diet?
A low-carb diet is one that limits the intake of carbohydrate-based foods, particularly starchy and sugary foods. Instead, it recommends the consumption of foods that are rich in proteins and fats. Generally, a low-carb diet is adopted to aid weight loss. It may also be advised for some patients who suffer from diabetes and metabolic syndromes.1
There are many different types of low-carb diets. A typical one should provide no more than 26% of your daily caloric value from carbohydrates. But the main idea behind a low-carb or ketogenic diet that’s high in proteins and fats remains the same; which is to regulate the body’s insulin content and induce ketosis — the condition where by the human body shifts to the use of fats for fuel, instead of the glucose that comes from the carbohydrates3. When this shift occurs, and the body enters a state of ketosis, ketones from fat cells become the main source of fuel that powers the metabolic activities of the body. This causes stored fat reserves to get used up causing weight loss2.
Does a low-carb diet cause hair loss?
There’s still a lot of uncertainty as to whether a low carb diet does cause hair loss. What remains clear is that, any kind of diet, provided it contains all the essential amount of vitamins, minerals, and other macronutrients in the right proportion, is important in supporting hair growth.
Currently there is no strong evidence to say a low-carb diet causes hair loss. However, there are anecdotal reports that people who adopt a low-carb diet may begin to notice hair falling out after a few months. While there are a lot of factors that have been attributed to such hair loss, some of the most convincing ones include severe calorie restriction, inadequate protein intake, nutrient deficiencies and stress.
Severe calorie restriction and hair loss
Drastic dietary changes are known to cause temporary hair loss. A typical example is telogen effluvium, a short term hair shedding phase as a result of a sudden lifestyle change. It is one of the most common causes of hair loss.
In telogen effluvium, the proportion of hairs that are actively growing (called anagen hair), and those that are at a resting phase (known as telogen hair) changes. A single hair follicle grows for about 2-5 years, and then enters a resting phase for about 3-5 months, after which a new hair will grow again to push out the resting hair. When there’s a shock to the system, such as sudden dietary change like going onto a low-carb diet, as much as 50% of the anagen or growing hairs can enter into resting phase, which may all fallout at the same time to cause temporal hair loss4. This is because the body diverts essential nutrients away from non-essential parts of the body such as the hair to other life-essential organs like the heart and brain.
Protein inadequacy and hair loss
Normally a low-carb or ketogenic diet is supposed to contain more protein content however some may choose to eat less protein and more high fat content food. Protein is an essential nutrient for growing hair follicles. Research-based findings have shown that a diet that’s deficient in proteins can cause hair loss6.
If most of your calorie intake comes from fats, then you may be eating a deficient amount of protein, risking its deficiency and therefore causing hair loss. proteins, and thus, risks protein deficiency. Proteins ought to make up anywhere between 10-30% of your daily calorie intake.
Nutrients deficiency and hair loss
A low-carb diet that’s deficient in key nutrients can also cause hair loss. Iron deficiency is the world’s most common nutritional deficiency, and is well-known to cause loss of hair 7.
Those who opt for a low-carb diet and are also vegan or vegetarian, the risk for iron deficiency increases, because the non-heme iron found in plant-based foods has a lower bioavailability than the heme iron found in animal foods like meat and fish. So, if you are a vegan, on a low-carb or keto diet, and your hair is beginning to thin and fall out, you may need to take iron supplements.
Apart from iron, if your low-carb diet is lacking in important vitamins like vitamin B7, folate, and vitamin E, you may also notice hair thinning or other signs of hair loss as these vitamins are important in maintaining healthy hair.
Stress and hair loss
Well, researched-based findings have shown that psychological stress is one of the several factors that can lead to the development of telogen effluvium. Those choosing to undergo a drastic dietary change like switching to a low-carb diet can suffer some degree of psychological stress, altering the hair growth cycle and cause more hair to shed.
Treatments for hair loss
If you do suffer from hair loss you can explore non-surgical treatments to help thicken your hair.
Non-surgical treatments you can explore include:
- Finasteride, which stops the balding process of androgenic alopecia, blocking the enzymes which assist the conversion of testosterone into DHT
- Minoxidil, which increases hair vitality by promoting good oxygen and nutrient supply
There are also surgical treatments such as an FUE hair transplant. This is an advanced, minimally-invasive procedure which takes individual hair follicles in tiny punches from the back and side of the head, before transplanting them to the part of your scalp suffering from hair loss such as the hairline or crown.
A low-carb or ketogenic diet hasn’t been shown to directly cause hair loss. It is the association of a wider change in dietary intake that cause cause hair thinning and loss. In cases where a patient is on a low-carb diet and has hair loss, they can expect the condition to be temporary especially if they correct any underlying nutritional deficiency.
Numerous factors can explain low-carb diets causing hair loss such as the drastic dietary changes that may alter calorie intake and the stress the body goes through as a result of these changes which will shift the hair growth cycle into a shedding phase. Irrespective of what’s causing your hair loss, you can prevent it by making sure you have a balanced diet. Foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals may help sustain the growth and healthy being of your hair.
If you are exploring having a hair transplant for your hair loss, book your consultation today. Our lead surgeons will be more than happy to give you more information on the personalised hair transplant service we offer at The Treatment Rooms London.
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