Does weight loss cause hair loss?

Hair loss is one of the more common side-effects of rapid and sudden weight loss, voluntary or otherwise. When you lose weight, your body tends to suffer from psychological stress, changes in hormones, and insufficient nutrients. All of these can result in hair loss.

Acute telogen effluvium (TE), for instance, is an affliction commonly associated with a sudden loss of weight and strict diet regimes. According to a 2017 study, TE is a major cause of extensive hair loss.

The effects of TE are usually felt around 3 months after a rapid weight loss event lasting up to 6 months.

Androgenic alopecia is another hair loss condition that is related to sudden weight loss and insufficient nutrition intake, according to a 2011 study.

While involuntary weight loss cannot be helped, certain weight reduction diet routines that are more severe can be managed.

Diets that are short on protein

Hair is essentially made of protein. Keratin is the main structural protein of hair. Adequate consumption of amino acids is essential for keratin production.

According to a 2017 study, if your low-calorie slimming diet involves reducing protein, there is a high chance you will suffer from drastic hair loss.

When your body’s protein needs are not met, it will direct whatever is available to the more protein-dependent tasks such as pH and water balance regulation, digestion, hormone production, and tissue repair.

Weight loss surgeries

Weight loss surgery, very obviously, results in a swift decrease in weight as well as protein and vitamin deficiencies. Consequently, there will be considerable hair loss.

In a 2018 study, it was observed that most patients who had sleeve gastrectomy done on them tended to lose hair. Sleeve gastrectomy is a surgery that involves the removal of a large part of the stomach. It was found that the patients who suffered from post-surgery hair loss had reduced amounts of vitamin B12 and zinc.

Certain weight loss surgeries let food circumvent parts of the intestines. Aftereffects of these types of surgeries can include malabsorption of nutrition. Consequently, there is a much higher risk of hair loss.

Crash diets and restrictive diets

The association between excess hair loss and crash diets was made way back in a 1976 study. Healthy hair growth is very much dependent on appropriate nutrition and calorie intake. Crash diets largely restrict the body from getting the necessary nutrients to sustain non-essential functions. Healthy growth and maintenance of hair is largely a non-consequential for the body’s survival.

When the body starts to receive calories, vitamins, and minerals in limited quantities, it prioritizes the supply to the more essential functions. Naturally, the hair begins to fall out.

Similar to crash diets, restrictive diets also lead to nutrition deficiency and psychological stress. Restrictive diets exclude entire food groups at a time in order to allow the person following it to lose weight swiftly. Such practices result in serious deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, important fatty acids, and proteins. The lack of these in a regular diet has been linked to hair loss in a 2012 study and another 2017 study.

Reducing hair loss while losing weight

If you are actively trying to lose weight, take care that your body receives the essential nutrients and vitamins. You can always use medical supplements for this purpose. However, the best method is ensuring a balanced nutrient intake while the weight loss approach is sustainable and healthy.

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