Why a lack of protein can cause hair loss and what to do about it
Lack of protein can cause hair loss.
“A void of protein can cause hair loss” says the certified dermatologist Neera Nathan, M.D.
When you don’t get enough protein, your body may enter a sort of panic mode—holding on to what nutrients it can get to keep your most vital organs working while conserving other resources.
“Your hair will be among the first to suffer because it’s not an essential function, so your resources are going elsewhere,” she explains. Not to mention, hair itself is made out of keratin—which is a protein in and of itself.
Now, protein needs will be different for each person. Here’s what we know about protein consumption right now:
For optimal health, most people should consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Protein needs are highly varied and individual: The exact amount of protein depends on your weight, activity level, genetics, and a variety of other factors. Those with kidney damage may need to follow a lower-protein diet.
Protein quality is just as important as protein quantity: It’s important to get leucine in your diet for optimal protein synthesis. Animal proteins generally contain more leucine, but plant-based sources like lentils, hemp seeds, navy beans, and pumpkin seeds can help support the leucine goals for plant-based lovers.
Other nutrients essential for healthy hair:
Protein isn’t the only nutrient to keep an eye on. Research also points out that low levels of the following may contribute to increased hair shedding:
What to do about it?
So consider a balanced diet. “It sounds simple, but it is truly important—not just for your hair but for your overall health,” Nathan says.
She recommends adding a variety of foods to your plate, including nutrient-dense staples like wild-caught fatty fish, nuts, leafy greens, eggs, and other whole and natural items.
You may also consider adding collagen supplements or protein powders to your routine for even more amino acid support.
“I do want to be clear that more is not always more; we also know that too much of some of these nutrients have been shown to cause hair loss or other serious problems,” she adds, so try not to hyper-focus on just one nutrient or food group.
If you’ve been eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet and still haven’t seen any positive results in terms of hair growth (or overall health, for that matter), visit your health care provider, as they may be able to give you some insights via blood tests and other evaluations.