Excessive Dieting and Rapid Weight Loss Can Cause Hair Loss
Most people associate hair loss with aging; but people of any age can lose excessive amounts of hair when they aren't getting the nutrition they need. In this crazy Western world of diet pills and liquid diets, we often set our bodies up for disaster from nutritional depletion. Before you attempt to lose a significant amount of weight, or even a small amount very quickly, make sure you understand the needs of your hair.
The Composition of Hair
It is perhaps easiest to understand why hair can be affected by rapid weight loss when you consider exactly what a hair is made of. The hair shaft, the only part of the hair above the scalp, is composed of keratinized (very tough) protein. The shaft is composed of three layers: the outer cuticle, the middle cortex, and the inner medulla, all of which are made of protein. While other vitamins and minerals are required for healthy hair growth, protein makes up 91% of the actual hair shaft.
The Natural Cycle of Hair Loss
You naturally lose anywhere from 50 to 150 hairs a day as the result of the hair growth cycle. A single hair will grow for 2 to 6 years, slowly detach from its dermal papilla (the capillary which supplies it with blood and nutrients), "rest" (i.e. not grow) for a period of 5 or 6 weeks, and then fall out naturally or when another hair pushes it out of its follicle.
Hair Loss and Poor Nutrition
When the body isn't getting enough nutrition, it will sacrifice less vital processes like growing hair. The majority of growing hair will then be forced into the resting phase and will fall out about 2 months later. That's why you won't experience hair loss immediately after starting a crash diet. Instead, it will take approximately 2 months after the start of the diet to start losing hair, which is likely to fall out in excess amounts in a short period of time.
When Losing Weight, How Fast Is Too Fast?
Anything that causes you to drop more than 2 pounds a week could potentially cause hair loss. The body simply cannot function maximally with so little sustenance. Losing weight too quickly can also depress the immune system and increase chances for infection. The bottom line: crash diets and rapid weight loss are just an all-around bad idea.
Nutrients Important for Hair Growth
Protein is absolutely the most important nutrient for hair growth. If you're trying to lose weight, stay away from red meats like beef, which contain more fat, and instead opt for low-fat white meats like fish and chicken. If you're trying to lose weight by not eating meat, be sure to get your daily protein requirements from things like beans, lentils, or tofu. There are many nutrients like zinc, vitamin A, biotin, and vitamin B12 that are also important or hair growth. If you suspect your diet may cause a deficiency of any of these nutrients you should consider a dietary supplement to keep hair healthy and strong.