People today are experiencing hair loss at a rate not seen by previous generations. Even children are starting to lose their hair, especially young boys. Some of us can probably remember a friend who started experiencing a receding hair line while still in high school. In recent years, the problem has gotten much worse, with some boys suffering from thinning locks as young as 6 years old!
My hair stylist told me that hair loss is rampant in her clientele both male and female, young and old. She said this shocking observation is one reason why she has started to switch over to nontoxic personal care products.
While chemical exposure and other factors such as adrenal fatigue are no doubt contributing to the epidemic of hair loss today, one thing is for certain.
Diet plays a huge role in hair loss especially male pattern baldness.
Saturated Fat Avoidance and Hair Follicle Destruction
Male pattern baldness is the most common type of balding. It usually involves a receding hairline at the top and front of the head sometimes combined with hair thinning at the crown. It affects about 1/3 of men by the age of 30, half by age 50, and nearly two-thirds by retirement age.
Most people chalk up balding in men to genetic predisposition. While this is definitely true, there is another reason that is less commonly known: male sex hormones potentially gone awry.
DHT Hormone and Male Baldness
According to Medical News Today, the molecule dihydrotestosterone (DHT) appears to be closely linked with male pattern baldness. What’s more, it is estimated that DHT is responsible for triggering baldness in over half of the men with hair loss issues.
This is not the only problem DHT causes. Excessive levels can trigger an enlarged prostate and potentially prostate cancer as well.
While DHT is an important male hormone (androgen) responsible for the development of male characteristics, when in excess it can cause problems. DHT is very potent, five times stronger than testoterone in fact! Moreover, DHT competes with testosterone for the same hormone receptor sites in the body. The difference is that DHT attaches more easily than testosterone and once bound, remains so for longer periods of time.
How does DHT contribute to issues with baldness? It does this by slowly “miniaturizing” the hair follicles to the point where new hairs are so short that eventually they do not even peek through the surface of the skin.
While new medications such as Finasteride (brand names: Propecia, Proscar) to inhibit the production of the baldness-inducing DHT have been shown to be successful in substantially reducing hair loss and stimulating new growth, wouldn’t it be better to control it with diet? After all, pharmaceutical drugs have undesirable side effects and sometimes even unknown risks for long term users.
Side Effects of Hair Loss Drugs
Here is the long list of side effects from Finasteride, many of them much worse than losing your hair (1).
- loss of sex drive (commonly reported)
- impotence (commonly reported)
- trouble having an orgasm
- abnormal ejaculation
- swelling of the hands or feet
- swelling or tenderness in the breast area
- feeling faint
- runny nose
- skin rash
Soooo, taking anti-baldness drugs supposedly makes you more attractive to dating prospects, but once you have their interest, you may no longer be even interested yourself?
That makes sense!
All in a day’s work for a drug marketing brochure!
Instead of Drugs, Prevent Baldness with Saturated Fat!
Instead of health destroying drugs, why not prevent hair loss and help regrowth with simple dietary changes?
You see, saturated fat intake inhibits the production of DHT just like the drug Finasteride but without all the nasty side effects.
The DHT conversion from testosterone is facilitated by an enzyme known as 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR). If there is an increase in 5-AR in the body, there will be an increase in the amount of testosterone that is converted into DHT and consequently an increase in hair loss.
Here’s where saturated fat comes in.
Saturated fat naturally lowers levels of 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR) in the body. This correspondingly causes less DHT to be converted and a reduction in hair loss.
Researchers revealed in the journal Chemistry and Biodiversity this nutritional bombshell about the inhibitory effect of saturated fats on 5-AR which blocks the conversion of testosterone to hair munching, prostate enlarging DHT (2).
Still Afraid of Eating Saturated Fat Even to Save Your Hair?
Is fear of the saturated fat boogie man keeping you from embracing butter, ghee, coconut oil, and other healthy fats and foods like egg yolks and liver that contain them? Relax. You can literally take heart in knowing that the decades held belief that saturated fat causes heart disease has been completely disproven. Even Time Magazine set the record straight in 2014. The cover proclaimed that eating butter is best. Saturated fats containing natural beneficial cholesterol boost health and are not the dietary demons they’ve been portrayed for 5+ decades. Many doctors including cardiologists today are in favor of butter and other saturated fats as well. Some have even gone so far as to say that lowfat diet is “morally and scientifically indefensible”.
On an anecdotal note, I’ve noticed that nutritional conferences that promote the benefits of traditional diet definitely seem to have more than their fair share of both men and women with luscious locks. Rather then being purely coincidence, research is showing that it is specifically the saturated fats so prized by traditional, ancestral societies that are a primary reason why!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
What is your take on minoxidil for hair loss Sarah?
Thanks for this article. I would like your opinion on saturated fats for topical application (mainly hair oil) . Is saturated hair oil (that is coconut oil boiled with curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, mountain daisy and bhringraj better than cold pressed coconut oil?
If you reply, please let me know if I can quote you on that !
What is your take on saw palmetto for hair loss?
What is your take on minoxidil for hair loss?
Shirley T ward
Sarah, I was wrong, my doctor was wrong. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.
Nik, this is Shirley. I had some result with the saturated fat, but it wasn’t til I went low carb and doubled up on non-starchy vegetables that the hair loss stopped. I eat protein, veggies, and fats at every meal, and one serving of carb (such as brown rice, etc) one meal a day. I believe insulin resistance is a contributing factor. I would suggest zero sugar at least for a few months. It took six months until new hairs appeared at the top of my head. About 60% of my hair is gone, wonder how much I’ll get back? Questions? Let me know.
Hi Shirley! How is your progress now? I’ve been losing hair in a female pattern way — all over thinning I wish I’d noticed years ago, widening part, some thinning at crown — but my most distressing loss is thinness in frontal area. I also experience itching and even stabbing-type feelings, especially when I wear a hat. I have a fairly clean diet but I guess I could clean it up further. Thanks for your thoughts.
I saw Shirley’s comment and just had to make my own. I have Androgenic alopecia – hair receding front and back plus diffuse thinning, especially around the crown. I have been doing a high sat fat diet. I was suspicious about my hairline receding quicker, then I upped the coconut oil part of my diet, and despite good effects in skin, my hair has been receding even faster! It is quite alarming, and looks awful. I’m so confused as I was so sure the sat fat (especially coconut oil!) should help. Apparently coconut oil can be bad for hormones according to some. Perhaps it is causing an increase in certain ones which is leading to increased hair receding. Those of us with this condition are very very sensitive to such changes! I am so disappointed as it feels like there is no answer for this condition. I know low fat diets are bad too, so this is a real catch 22 situation. Has anyone else noticed this happening? I think our receptors are extremely sensitive or something, and a wig will be the only answer eventually.
My thinning hair started to grow back and the only change I’d made in my diet was the addition of 2x 15g tablespoons of organic Raw virgin Coconut oil a day. After a while I began searching for why this may be the case and found this article right here.
Sarah what is your take on caffeine shampoos?
What is some actual proof on this? A Times magazine cover? I don’t see any studies here. The high fat crazy is unjustified.