4 November 2019Nutrition and Hair Loss: Do Supplements Help or Not?

Nutrition and Hair Loss

There are many reasons that people start losing their hair, and maybe even more recommended remedies to prevent it. Some of the most popular remedies include nutritional supplements, particularly certain vitamins, minerals, protein, and fats. But do these really work?

The truth is your hair does need vitamins and minerals to grow, and nutrient deficiencies are often an underlying reason for hair loss. However, it turns out that nutritional supplements may not be the best solution. Let's look at a few of the most popular ones a little bit more closely.

Biotin

Although biotin deficiency has been linked to hair loss, it's very rare for someone to be deficient in biotin. There is no scientific evidence that biotin is effective in treating hair loss in people, though it may help brittle fingernails. Nonetheless, biotin is used widely and there are anecdotal stories of it being effective, especially when combined with zinc, vitamin C, and folic acid.

Getting enough B vitamins in your diet can be helpful for hair growth. For example, B vitamins help move oxygen and nutrients throughout your body, including to your hair follicles. This may in turn translate to healthier hair.

B vitamins can be found in a wide range of animal products, dark leafy greens, whole grains, nutritional yeast, and fortified plant milks, like soy milk. Biotin is found in egg yolks, legumes, cereal grains, and soy flour.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps your body grow hair cells and make sebum, an oily substance in your pores that helps keep your hair healthy. Research says that vitamin A deficiency can lead to hair loss, but so can getting too much of it. Too much vitamin A can be dangerous for other reasons, too. It's a fat soluble vitamin, which means it builds up in your body and becomes toxic if you have too much.

Instead of taking a megadose vitamin A supplement for your hair, which can have negative side effects, try eating more vitamin A-rich foods. Good sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, and dark leafy green vegetables.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps your body make collagen, an important building block for hair. It's also an antioxidant that can protect hair weakness and dullness due to aging. Vitamin C helps you absorb more iron, an essential nutrient for hair growth.

It's unlikely that you're deficient in vitamin C, but if you don't eat enough fruits and vegetables, that's a good place to start. Some of the best sources are citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli.

Vitamin D

There is a link between hair loss and low levels of vitamin D, but the effect of vitamin D and hair growth is not certain. Many people are deficient in vitamin D due to too much time spent indoors. Some of the best sources of vitamin D are sunlight, fatty fish, and fortified foods.

Vitamin E

Another antioxidant, vitamin E may actually help boost hair growth. One study found that eight months of vitamin E supplementation helped people with hair loss to have almost a 35% increase in hair growth. People who took a placebo only had a 0.1% increase.

However, too much vitamin E can be dangerous. Instead of supplements, vitamin E can be easily added to your diet. Avocados, spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, broccoli, and wheat germ are good sources.

Protein

Amino acids build proteins in your body, and you need them to grow hair. Protein deficiency can lead to hair loss. Although protein deficiency is rare among people who are otherwise healthy and have access to food, various medical conditions or extremely restrictive diets can increase the risk for protein deficiency. Talk with your health care provider if you are concerned about this. Protein is found in meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, as well as in plant-based foods such as soy, dried beans and peas (legumes), grains, nuts, and seeds. To learn more about food sources of protein from both animal and plants, see Protein Foods at MyNetDiary.

Other supplements with lack of evidence

Despite a lack of evidence of being effective, zinc, iron, niacin, selenium, and folic acid are also popular supplements marketed as hair loss treatments. Many of these nutrients have either not been studied on hair loss or have shown to be ineffective in its treatment.

The bottom line

Good nutrition is important to keep your hair healthy and may even prevent hair loss, and eating a variety of nutritious whole foods is probably your best bet. When it comes to treating hair loss, skip the supplements and take a look at your diet instead to get the most bang for your buck. There may just be a few foods you need to add to your regular routine to make a difference in your hair health.

Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD is a freelance health writer and dietitian with 12 years of experience in the field of nutrition. You can learn more about her at www.anareisdorf.com

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Nutrients/Other Vitamins & Minerals

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