Whether you’ve found your once-thick hair looking somewhat sparser or are noticing bald patches on your scalp, millions of individuals struggle with hair loss each year. While there are treatments—many of them costly and invasive—that promise to restore thinning hair, new research suggests that there may be an easier way to help reduce hair loss.
A 2021 study published in the journal Nature reveals that among a group of mice fed either a high-fat diet or a standard diet, those fed a high-fat diet were more likely to experience hair thinning and loss.
“High-fat diet feeding accelerates hair thinning by depleting [hair follicle stem cells] that replenish mature cells that grow hair, especially in old mice,” explains Hironobu Morinaga, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, in a statement.
In fact, it didn’t take long for the high-fat diet to have a profound effect on the animals’ hair and skin. In just four days, researchers were able to observe changes in the hair and skin of mice fed the high-fat diet, as well as signs of increased oxidative stress, which has also been linked to tissue damage and an increased risk of cancer.
This isn’t the first time research has found an association between weight, diet, and hair loss. A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that among a group of 189 men with an average age of 30.8 years, those who were overweight or obese were significantly more likely to experience severe alopecia than their counterparts of normal weight.
However, just because you’re carrying around a few extra pounds or have been eating a high-fat diet for some time doesn’t mean hair loss is a foregone conclusion.
A 2018 study published in Scientific Reports found that among mice fed a high-fat Western-style diet, taking a drug that inhibited the production of glycosphingolipids (GSLs), a type of lipid found in cell membranes, helped reverse both hair loss and the loss of hair pigmentation.
“Our findings show that a western diet causes hair loss, hair whitening and skin inflammation in mice, and we believe a similar process occurs in men who lose hair and experience hair whitening when they eat a diet high in fat and cholesterol,” explained the study’s lead author Subroto Chatterjee, Ph.D., a professor of pediatrics and medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a statement.
For more ways to help your locks regain their former luster, check out the Best Supplements for Your Hair, According to Dietitians, and for the latest healthy eating news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter!