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Can what you eat cause hair loss?

Hair loss can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, hormones, medications, and health conditions. However, there is some evidence that diet may also play a role. Eating a nutrient-poor diet or one lacking in certain vitamins and minerals can contribute to excessive shedding and thinning hair in some individuals.

How does diet affect hair growth?

Hair follicles require adequate nutrition to remain healthy and grow strong hair. Many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are involved in the hair growth cycle. A deficiency in any of these micronutrients can disrupt the cycle and cause hair loss. Some key nutrients involved in hair health include:

  • Protein – Needed to build strong keratin for hair strands.
  • Iron – Carries oxygen to follicles which is needed for growth.
  • Zinc – Involved in protein synthesis for hair production.
  • Vitamin D – Activates stem cells that promote healthy follicles.
  • Fatty acids – Moisturize follicles and provide shine.
  • Antioxidants – Protect against damage and aging.

When intake of these nutrients is insufficient, hair may grow more slowly, become dry and brittle, and fall out more easily. Eating a balanced diet with adequate quantities of hair-healthy foods can help maintain normal hair growth.

Are there specific foods linked to hair loss?

While a generally poor diet can contribute to hair thinning, there are some specific nutritional deficiencies and food intolerances that are often tied to excessive shedding.

Iron deficiency

Iron carries oxygen to hair follicles, which is essential for growth. Low iron levels can lead to anemia and hair loss. Good dietary sources of iron include:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Beans
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Iron-fortified cereals and grains

Low protein

Protein is needed to make keratin for strong hair strands. Inadequate protein intake can cause hair to become dry and brittle. Make sure to eat high protein foods like:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dairy products

Zinc deficiency

Zinc plays key roles in hair tissue growth and repair. Low levels may cause hair loss. Zinc is found in foods such as:

  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Dairy products

Biotin deficiency

Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is an essential nutrient for keratin production. Insufficient biotin intake can lead to brittle hair and thinning. Good sources of biotin include:

  • Liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Salmon
  • Avocados
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D helps activate hair follicle stem cells that are important for growth cycles. Low levels may contribute to hair loss. Get vitamin D from foods like:

  • Fatty fish
  • Fortified milk and juices
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified cereals

Gluten sensitivity

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Some people have an immune reaction to gluten that can damage hair follicles and cause shedding. Avoiding gluten may help resolve hair loss for those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

Are there dietary supplements for hair loss?

Specific vitamin and mineral supplements may help improve hair growth when dietary intake is inadequate. Some supplements often promoted for hair health include:


Biotin supplements are often recommended for strengthening hair and nails. Studies show high-dose biotin can help thicken hair in some individuals with biotin deficiency or hair loss disorders.

Vitamin D

Supplementing vitamin D may support healthier hair growth, particularly for those low in this nutrient. However, excessive doses can cause side effects.


Iron supplements can help reverse iron deficiency anemia and associated hair shedding. They should only be taken when recommended by a healthcare provider.


Increasing zinc intake with supplements may boost hair growth if zinc levels are low. Excessive zinc can disrupt absorption of other minerals.


Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil may help give hair a healthy shine. They also help reduce inflammation that can impair follicle growth.


Antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium counter hair follicle damage and support growth. But routine antioxidant supplements are not necessary for most people.

Are there foods to avoid for hair loss?

Some foods are linked to increased inflammation, oxidative stress, and hormonal imbalances that can worsen hair loss in predisposed individuals. Foods to limit for healthy hair include:

Food Impact on Hair
Refined carbs Can spike blood sugar and insulin, increasing testosterone and DHT implicated in pattern baldness.
Saturated fats May promote inflammation around follicles and damage growth.
Sugar Linked to increased sebum production which can clog follicles.
Alcohol May deplete nutrients, reduce protein absorption, and cause dehydration.
Caffeine Excess intake can stress the adrenals leading to increased cortisol and hair shedding.
Processed foods Often lacking nutrients for hair health and contain inflammatory ingredients.

Does diet help with hair loss conditions?

While nutrient intake is just one piece of the hair loss puzzle, eating the right foods and avoiding nutritional deficiencies may support better hair outcomes for certain conditions.

Androgenetic alopecia

This common genetic form of hair loss linked to DHT hormone levels may be aided by eating anti-inflammatory foods and limiting refined carbs that can spike insulin and androgens.

Telogen effluvium

With temporary increased shedding caused by shock to the system, focusing on protein, iron, zinc and stress-reducing nutrients like omega-3s can help minimize hair falling out.

Alopecia areata

This autoimmune disorder causing patchy bald spots is hard to prevent, but anti-inflammatory vitamins like vitamin D may help calm the immune attack on follicles.

Thyroid hair loss

Getting enough nutrient cofactors needed for thyroid hormone production like selenium, zinc, and iron can lessen shedding associated with hypothyroidism.

Key takeaways

While more research is still needed, the current evidence suggests nutrition and diet quality do play a role in the health and growth of hair follicles. Getting adequate intake of protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D, biotin, and other hair-supporting nutrients can help reduce excessive shedding and thinning associated with nutritional deficiencies. It may also be beneficial to limit inflammatory foods and those that spike blood sugar levels. Supplements like biotin, vitamin D, iron, and zinc may provide additional support when dietary intake is insufficient. However, remedies like prescription medications, laser devices, and hair transplants are still the most effective approaches for more permanent hair loss conditions.


Diet is one piece of the puzzle when it comes to fighting hair loss. Focusing on getting sufficient protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats can provide the building blocks and ideal environment for hair growth. While nutritional interventions are unlikely to completely cure permanent genetic or medical hair loss, they may help slow down shedding and improve hair fullness when used in conjunction with other treatments. Consulting with healthcare providers to identify any nutritional deficiencies, food intolerances, or hormone imbalances contributing to hair issues can allow for a more targeted dietary approach. With attention to overall diet quality and awareness of key hair-healthy nutrients, it is possible to help support the healthy hair you desire.