The Independent Pharmacy

Is There A Link Between Protein And Hair Loss

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 6 Oct 2023

Hair loss can feel concerning and stressful. Understanding the cause is the first step toward solutions. Research clearly demonstrates a link between insufficient protein and hair loss. By optimising daily protein, those experiencing thinning or brittle locks can get to the root of the problem.

In this guide, we'll explain the basics in an easy-to-understand way - how protein impacts hair health, recommended daily amounts, which foods help boost intake, and simple diet adjustments that can make a difference.

Hair issues can feel disheartening. But whether one has noticed thinning, breakage, or excess shedding, solutions are within reach. Adequate dietary protein can help restore vibrancy and get hair health back on track. Let's explore how optimising protein intake can lead to the strong, lush locks you deserve.

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The Link Between Protein and Hair Health

Protein and Hair Structure

Hair is primarily composed of a protein called keratin that contains long chains of amino acids. Keratin is a structural protein that makes up the outermost layer of human skin, hair and nails. This fibrous, structural protein gives hair its smooth, strong texture.

The hair follicle anchors each strand of hair. Within the follicle, amino acids are assembled into keratin chains through a process called protein synthesis. The keratin is then incorporated into hair cells as it grows out of the scalp. Hair is almost entirely made up of keratin proteins.

Without adequate protein intake, the hair follicles produce weaker keratin, leading to brittle, easily damaged hair. Protein provides the fundamental building blocks to regenerate hair cells and promote normal growth cycles.

How Do You Know if Your Hair Lacks Protein?

When hair is deficient in protein, it can show signs of damage and abnormal structure. Some symptoms that may indicate low protein levels include:

  • Thinning or sparse areas of the scalp
  • Increased shedding and hair loss
  • Lack of elasticity and dry, brittle strands
  • Split ends and breakage
  • Slow growth
  • Loss of shine and lustre

Gently observing changes in your hair can help you identify signs of protein deficiency, allowing you to take action before hair loss becomes more noticeable. If your hair seems weak, dry and brittle, it likely indicates inadequate protein intake. Ensuring you consume sufficient high-quality protein sources can strengthen hair follicles for renewed growth and vibrancy.

Protein Intake and Hair Health

How Much Protein Do You Need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8-1 grams per kilogram of body weight, or about 48-60 grams per day for a 60 kg adult. This aligns with general dietary guidelines for meeting basic health needs.

Some sources suggest intakes of up to 1 gram per kilogram of body weight for optimal hair growth. However, research has not established definitive evidence that higher intakes are needed for hair health specifically. Requirements can vary greatly between individuals based on many factors.

While adequate protein is crucial, more is not necessarily better and very high intakes may pose risks for some people. Work with your healthcare provider to determine the ideal daily protein target for your individual health goals and circumstances. Focus on getting lean, high-quality proteins from whole food sources as part of a balanced diet.

Can Too Much Protein Cause Hair Loss?

It's uncommon for excessive protein intake from regular meals to cause hair loss on its own. Consuming extremely high amounts of protein supplements long-term could potentially tax the kidneys. However, most experts agree this level of excess is rare without the use of concentrated supplements.

While protein is essential for robust hair growth, more is not necessarily better. Finding the optimal amount tailored to your needs is key. Focus on high-quality sources from a balanced diet, not restrictive fad diets. Work with a healthcare provider to determine the ideal daily intake for your lifestyle and health status.

When you maintain adequate but not excessive protein levels, your hair follicles can seamlessly incorporate the amino acids needed to build strong, vibrant hair. Unless directed by a medical professional, most healthy adults don't require high-dose protein supplements for better hair growth.

Avoiding protein deficiency while staying within reasonable intake ranges lets your hair thrive. With the right balance guided by your individual requirements, your locks will reap the benefits of sufficient protein for fullness and shine.

What Foods Help Grow Hair?

Incorporating protein-rich foods in your diet provides the essential building blocks for healthy hair growth. Focus on quality sources from both plants and animals for a balanced approach.

Protein-Rich Foods for Hair

  • Lean meats like chicken, turkey, lean beef and pork provide complete proteins.
  • Fish and seafood like salmon, tuna, shrimp and lobster offer protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Eggs are packed with high-quality protein and biotin for hair health.
  • Greek yoghurt and cottage cheese provide protein with smaller amounts of carbs.
  • Beans, lentils and legumes are excellent plant-based protein sources.
  • Nuts like almonds, walnuts and pecans deliver protein, healthy fats and vitamin E.
  • Seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and chia add protein, zinc and vitamin E.
  • Soy products like tofu, tempeh and edamame offer complete plant proteins.
  • Ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat provide protein and nutrients.

Incorporating Proteins into Your Diet

Aim to include quality protein sources in every meal and snack. For example:

  • Breakfast: Greek yoghurt with nuts and fruit, eggs with vegetables, oatmeal with seeds and nut butter
  • Lunch: Salmon, chicken or tofu salad, lentil or bean soup
  • Snacks: Cottage cheese and berries, hummus and veggies, hard boiled eggs
  • Dinner: Grilled fish or chicken with quinoa and roasted vegetables

Following a balanced diet with adequate protein provides the essentials for hair growth while avoiding deficiencies in other key nutrients. Work with a nutritionist or dietitian to tailor your meal plan.

When Dietary Changes Aren’t Enough

While optimising protein intake through diet is important, it may not be enough for some individuals experiencing hair loss or damage. In certain cases, supplements and medical treatments can help.

Role of Supplements and Treatments

Optimising nutrition through protein-rich whole foods provides the foundation for healthy hair. However, dietary changes alone may not be sufficient for some individuals experiencing excessive hair loss and damage.

If blood tests show you're not getting enough protein or other important nutrients, a doctor might suggest taking specific supplements to make up for what's missing. But dietary sources should meet the needs for most healthy adults without high-dose supplements.

Beyond nutrition, medications and procedures can also assist when hair loss persists despite an adequate diet. Options like Minoxidil (also available as Regaine or Regaine for Women), Finasteride (Propecia) and microneedling combined with topicals may stimulate regrowth in certain types of hair thinning. Discuss all treatment alternatives with your healthcare provider to develop an integrated approach tailored to your needs.

At The Independent Pharmacy, our hair loss experts can explore whether prescription treatments like Regaine (Minoxidil) or Finasteride could be beneficial options to strengthen your hair. All you need to get started is to fill out your self-assessment. Our team will review your answers and come back to you with treatments that would be the best for you.

Personalising Protein Intake

While protein is important for hair health, optimal intake depends on your unique needs, health status and demographic factors.

Individual Protein Needs

The ideal protein consumption varies based on:

  • Age - Children ages 1-3 need about 14.5 grams of protein per day. Teens require 45.2-55.5 grams per day. By age 65, needs to decrease to 46.5-53.3 grams per day.
  • Gender - Men generally need more protein than women, with recommendations of 55.5 grams versus 45 grams daily for adults. This accounts for men typically having more muscle mass.
  • Activity Level - Sedentary adults need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight. Endurance athletes require up to 1.2-2 grams. Resistance training also increases the need for muscle repair.
  • Medical Conditions - Diseases like diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, liver disease and malabsorption conditions can all impact optimal protein intake. Work with your healthcare team to determine individual needs.

Getting bloodwork done for kidney function, glucose control, and protein status can provide helpful data points for personalising your protein consumption. Partnering with a registered dietitian provides expert guidance.

Special Considerations

Certain groups have unique protein needs warranting special attention:

Pregnant women need enough protein to support both the baby's development and their own health during the pregnancy. Their needs surpass non-pregnant women, so increased protein consumption is recommended.

Breastfeeding mothers also require ample protein to nourish their babies through breast milk production. Focusing on high-quality lean protein sources helps ensure infants receive complete nutrition.

Vegans and vegetarians should intentionally combine complementary plant-based protein sources, such as beans and rice, to obtain all essential amino acids. With proper meal planning, plant-based eaters can support healthy hair.

Older adults need enough protein to keep their muscles strong, but too much protein can be hard on the kidneys. Working with their doctor helps determine appropriate protein levels as they age.

Debunking Myths and Misconceptions

Many myths persist about protein and hair health. Let's bust common misconceptions and separate fact from fiction using scientific evidence.

Myth: Consuming extra protein can help regrow hair.

Fact: While getting sufficient protein prevents deficiency, excess won't increase growth. Hair follicles only use a limited amount at once. After meeting daily needs through diet, additional protein does not provide added hair benefits.

Myth: Vegetarians/vegans will experience hair loss from inadequate protein.

Fact: Plant foods can provide sufficient protein for hair health when calorie intake is adequate. Balanced amino acids and calories enable normal hair growth on vegetarian/vegan diets.

Myth: Taking protein supplements is necessary to prevent hair loss.

Fact: Most healthy adults can get adequate protein from whole foods without supplementation. Focus on high-quality lean proteins at meals before considering supplements.

Myth: Protein alone determines hair growth.

Fact: Many factors influence hair health, including genetics, stress, disease, medications, and nutrient deficiencies beyond just protein. While important, protein is just one piece of the bigger hair growth picture.

Myth: Certain proteins like collagen specifically promote hair growth.

Fact: No research shows single protein sources are superior. Focus on a variety of high-quality proteins from both plants and animals.

Take the Next Step With The Independent Pharmacy

We understand hair thinning and loss affect self-confidence. At The Independent Pharmacy, our caring team of experts can support you through your hair health journey.

We start by going through your self-assessment to learn about your situation. If protein intake or nutrient deficiencies seem likely, we can advise on dietary changes and supplements tailored to your needs.

For more severe cases, we develop customised treatment regimens combining proven medications like Minoxidil and Finasteride with natural solutions as appropriate. Our integrated approach helps stimulate regrowth while optimising nutrition.

Want to explore the options that may benefit you? Contact The Independent Pharmacy:

Phone: 0333 2200 519

Email: [email protected]

Our knowledgeable team keeps up with the latest hair loss research to provide evidence-based solutions personalised to your goals. We're here to educate, support and empower you each step of the way. Reach out today to start seeing real improvements.

FAQs

Which deficiency causes hair fall?

Deficiencies in certain key nutrients can lead to increased hair fall and shedding. In particular, inadequate intake of proteins, iron, vitamin D, zinc, and biotin are common nutritional causes of hair loss. Protein provides structural components to hair follicles, while iron carries oxygen for growth. Vitamin D, zinc, and biotin all support scalp health and follicle function. Getting enough of these essential vitamins and minerals prevents deficiency that can disrupt the hair growth cycle.

Does protein thicken hair?

Yes, adequate protein intake can help promote thicker, fuller hair. Hair is primarily composed of a protein called keratin. When the body has enough protein building blocks, keratin production in hair follicles occurs normally, leading to optimal growth phases. This results in thicker individual strands and increased density across the scalp for lusher-looking hair.

How much hair loss is normal?

Rest assured, it's completely normal to shed about 50-100 hairs each day. Losing more than 100 hairs daily or noticing progressive thinning could indicate an underlying issue. Speak with your healthcare provider if you are concerned about increased hair loss to rule out any medical conditions.

What causes excessive hair loss in females?

There are many potential causes of excessive hair shedding and loss in women, including stress, hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, autoimmune disease, medications, vitamin deficiencies, and conditions like alopecia areata. It's important to consult a doctor to determine the underlying cause, as treatment will depend on the specific reason for excessive hair fall.

Sources:

HP-booklet.pdf (bfwh.nhs.uk)

Eating a balanced diet - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

DIET-004-highenergyhighprotein-2019.pdf (elht.nhs.uk)

Total protein test - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Protein - British Nutrition Foundation

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