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Is it true that a vegan diet can lead to hair loss, or is this another example of meat eaters hating on vegans? If you’re looking for a fair, researched answer, you’ve come to the right place. Stay tuned.
Hey guys Leon here and welcome to the Hairguard YouTube channel. On this channel we do tons of science backed videos, all about how you can combat hair loss and regrow healthy hair. If you want updating on any of the latest hair loss news make sure to subscribe and hit that notifications button.
So how do we define veganism? Well, a vegan is somebody who doesn’t eat animals or animal products, including things like eggs and dairy. So it’s a stricter version of vegetarianism, as most vegetarians include dairy products in their diet.
Now just because you’re a vegan does not automatically mean you’re eating healthy. You can still fully fit the vegan definition and live on such junk food as potato chips, cookies and crackers.
But that’s not what we will be talking about today. Instead we’ll be focusing on the healthy vegan diet that consists of whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and legumes.
So now that we have the definition out of the way, let’s ask the question once again. Can a vegan diet lead to hair loss? Well, it depends on the specifics of the diet.
The key here is iron, particularly when it comes to female vegans. You see, iron deficiency is the leading cause of diffuse hair loss among women, with some studies suggesting that it could be linked to as many as two thirds of cases.
The exact mechanism by which iron deficiency causes hair loss is not known for sure. One possible way is by serving as a trigger for the expression of certain genes that are involved in hair growth.
Another possibility is that iron deficiency impedes the production of ribonucleotide reductase, which is a key enzyme in DNA production. And since certain hair follicle cells are among the most rapidly dividing in the body, anything that slows down the production of genetic material will cause problems.
Now, the causes of iron deficiency fall into three general categories. Firstly, there’s decreased iron absorption. This can be due to stomach and intestinal conditions, abuse of antacid medications or simply unfortunate genetics.
Secondly, periods of increased iron needs, such as pregnancy, heavy periods or parasite infection.
And thirdly, dietary iron deficiency, brought about by crash dieting or an unbalanced vegan diet. Consider that some of the most common iron-rich foods will be lacking in a vegan diet. These include eggs, red meat, chicken, turkey, liver, and seafood.
Now if you’re a vegan watching this video, there is some good and bad news. The good news, as you probably already know, is that you can get iron from a variety of non-animal food products like lentils, beans, spinach and many more plant foods. We’ll come back to that later.
The bad news is that there is a difference between the iron you get from animal vs plants products. The iron in animal products is of a kind called heme iron, whereas the iron in plant-based foods is non-heme. Crucially, heme iron is more readily absorbed in the circulation, and therefore makes a larger contribution to dietary iron for most people.
But vegans on the other hand will have to rely exclusively on non-heme iron, which is not as easily absorbed. For this reason, they have been estimated to require as much as 1.8 times the amount of iron compared to meat eaters.
So you have a double whammy of the vegan diet, which is that it typically leads to the consumption of lower levels of iron, while requiring higher levels in the first place, due to the kind of iron the diet involves.
Aside from hair loss, other symptoms of iron deficiency include low energy and fatigue, the feeling of being constantly tired.
Now if you are on a vegan diet and are concerned about your hair or are experiencing hair loss, the way to get test for dietary iron deficiency is with a ferritin test. We have covered ferritin in a previous video, which I’ve linked to in the description below. Briefly, it’s the protein your body uses to store iron, and low levels of this protein can reveal an iron deficiency and even anemia.
The good news is that hair loss due to an iron deficient vegan diet is easily reversible. As soon as the underlying iron deficiency is addressed, the hair will start to grow back.
This video is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease.