Can sugar cause hair loss? We get this question quite often in our clinic. First, there are various different sugars derived from different sources so let’s break them down. Simple sugars are called monosaccharides and include glucose, fructose and galactose. The common table sugar used as food is sucrose, a disaccharide. In the body, sucrose hydrolyses into fructose and glucose. Other disaccharides include maltose and lactose.
Sugars are found in the tissues of most plants, but are only present in sufficient concentrations of efficient extraction in sugarcane and sugar beet. The average person consumes about 24 kilograms of sugar each year. This averages out to about 260 food calories per person, per day. In the later part of the twentieth century is was determined that an overabundance of refined sugars can cause disease. It has been linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, tooth decay and hair loss.
Studies on Sugar and Hair Loss
In 2000 Finnish researchers found that men with high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and obesity were a lot more likely to be bald. This study suggests that a poor diet can trigger hair loss. The number one factor for developing a resistance to insulin is a diet laden in sugar.
Researchers do not really know why a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates contributes to balding in men and women. When researchers examined if eating a healthy diet could reverse balding, they found that eliminating sugar and carbs was not enough to reverse damage that already occurred due to a diet high in sugar.
However, there is some research that supports the idea that switching to a healthy diet can prevent future hair loss. In 1928, explorer Karsten Anderson conducted the Bellevue Study. This study had the participants lock themselves inside a hospital and eat nothing but meat for a year. This was an extreme form of diet that contained zero carbohydrates.
Although eating meat only is not healthy for long-term use, this is one of the only studies that examined the role of carbohydrates and sugar in balding. At the end of the year, Anderson, who was balding at the start of the study, had not lost any additional hair.
One possibly theory for hair loss caused by sugar is a lack of protein. Hair is mainly protein, and if you do not have enough protein in your body, then your hair cannot grow effectively.
Another theory is that essential vitamins necessary for hair growth, like vitamin E, copper, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, and selenium, and other vitamins and trace minerals are simply not present in a sugar-based diet. With a lack of these ingredients, hair simply cannot engage in the proper ebb and flow that gives a person healthy hair.
Another possible theory is the idea that what you eat affects the hormone levels of your body. A diet high in sugar, chemicals, and inflammation-causing foods (carbs and omega 6 fats are highly inflaming) may cause a hormone imbalance. Without the right hormone balance, the body cannot produce the right hormones linked to the growth of healthy hair.
One common hormone that is linked with hair loss is DHT. DHT is a harsher form of testosterone (both men and women can have some levels of DHT) that causes the development of pubic hair, the onset of puberty in boys, and the enlargement of the prostate as a man ages. High levels of DHT contribute to hair loss.
A diet high in sugar and chemicals combined with a lack of vitamins makes it challenging for the body to control the production of DHT. A healthy diet eliminates excess DHT from the body so that it cannot cause hair loss.
The Paleo Solution – Robb Wolf
Brenda Priddy with Progressive Health
Wiki – Sugar Studies