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Weight Loss and Associated Hair Loss - Weight Loss Guide

Updated: Apr 23, 2022

The primary purpose of any weight loss program is to improve metabolic health and lower the risk of metabolic disorders. Optimal body weight is also associated with a lower risk of diabetes, heart diseases, brain disorders, mood disorders, etc. It means that any weight loss should not happen at the expense of health. However, it is true that in many cases, extreme weight loss measures can do significant harm. These weight loss measures may even cause untimely death.

Take the example of the death of legendary cricketer Shane Warne, who was on a restrictive diet. That is why many experts believe that the cause of this sudden death has a lot to do with significant dietary changes. However, a heart attack is just one of the rare and extreme examples. However, severely restrictive diets are more likely to cause less severe health issues. In many cases, people may even struggle to understand if their health issues are related to the weight loss program or not. It appears that sudden hair loss is a common issue associated with weight loss. Such problems are more likely to occur in those following a dramatic weight loss program like a highly restrictive diet and an extensive exercise program. The human body needs time to adapt to any significant change, even if such a change is positive. It means that sudden and too much weight loss may pose a greater risk. These are the things to be borne in mind.

It is vital to understand the risks associated with specific weight loss programs, especially considering that so many people are searching for fast weight loss methods these days. In addition, it is essential to understand that fast weight loss is possible but not recommended. Moreover, fast weight loss not only causes many unexpected side effects, but it is also more likely to cause rebound obesity. It means that many such fast gains are not long-lasting. People need to understand the importance of legacy. It means that if a person has been overweight for a decade, one cannot expect to reverse all the ill effects in just a few months. Even if a person can gain average body weight, the legacy effect remains. It means that person needs a much longer time to become metabolically healthy. Thus, if a person already has partially blocked arteries, one cannot expect to reverse it in a few months. However, changing this condition might be possible with a prolonged effort. Hence, hair loss associated with weight loss may not indicate something severe, but it may be a sign of something more severe. It may indicate higher stress levels to nutritional deficiencies, and it may say that person is doing something wrong.

Causes of hair loss associated with weight loss

Perhaps in most, if not all cases, it indicates nutritional deficiencies and a higher stress level caused by severe lifestyle changes. These changes could be in the form of a highly restrictive diet, adoption of some new diet form, or even an extensive exercise program. Of course, one should not need to worry too much until or unless hair loss continues for a few months or it is too severe. After all, in some conditions, it may merely indicate that the weight loss program is working and the body is adapting to the new environment. If hair loss does not continue for long, it is not a reason to worry. Instead, it may indicate some kind of hormonal changes or even food allergies. Moreover, it is worth understanding that hair loss associated with weight loss is not rare. Studies show that most people can expect increased hair loss along with weight loss. This type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium.

Weight loss and telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a hair loss that generally starts after a few months of starting a weight loss program. It is more likely to occur in those following a low-calorie diet or those who adopted some new diet form. Usually, significant hair loss in the condition may continue for about six months. Fortunately, things may start improving after about six months in most cases. Additionally, one needs to understand that hair shedding is not always abnormal. Most people shed 50-100 hair a day, which is normal. However, some may start noticing this hair loss when following a weight loss program, thus making some wrong conclusions. If hair loss is abnormal and occurs due to telogen effluvium, it would generally follow after significant weight loss in the last three months. However, it may also occur after some periods of mental stress, fever, or other issues.

However, before making any conclusions, one should exclude other hair loss causes like the use of certain medications or fungal infections. Although researchers are unsure about what causes telogen effluvium, they believe it is due to nutritional deficiencies caused by certain types of diet. There is a reason to think that it occurs due to a lack of micronutrients. It is more common after a crash diet, restrictive diet, or even weight loss surgery. Researchers know that deficiency of some micronutrients is more likely to cause hair loss, for example, iron and zinc deficiency. However, it may also cause other signs like fatigue, iron deficiency anemia, and even a decline in immunity. Some other nutrients that often lead to hair loss are deficiencies of vitamin Bs, selenium, fatty acids, vitamin D, and much more.

Is weight loss associated with hair loss permanent?

It is an essential question as hair loss is often irreversible in many conditions like androgenetic alopecia. However, in the case of telogen effluvium, things are different and fortunately better. It means that hair loss is reversible and generally for a few months. One may feel that hair is thin or does not look perfect for half a year or more, as hair growth is slow in many conditions. Nevertheless, hair will regrow and revive in all cases once the nutritional deficiencies have been managed. Here it is vital to understand that, unlike male pattern baldness, telogen effluvium has many other symptoms of malnutrition like fatigue, poor nail health, infections, heart issues, and even mood disorders like depression.

Prolonged malnutrition may alter immunity or hormone levels and cause severe mood swings. In women, hormonal changes may also affect periods.

Weight loss programs that are more likely to cause hair loss

Some weight loss programs are more likely to cause hair loss. Generally, the more restrictive the diet greater is the risk. Thus, a crash diet quite frequently causes hair loss. On the other hand, diets like the Mediterranean diet would not cause hair loss. The crash diet was popularized way back in the 1970s, and many use it for faster weight loss. A crash diet is a simple approach in which one severely limits calorie intake. For example, some individuals may go for an 800 or even 500 calorie diet. Unfortunately, such diets are generally deficient in many vital nutrients. Studies have analyzed the cause of such a diffused hair loss caused by crash diets or other restrictive diets. Studies show that the two most significant causes are iron-deficient anemia and psychological stress associated with such weight loss programs.

A very low protein diet could be another cause of diffuse hair loss. It is more likely to occur in those on a low-calorie diet that is predominantly vegan. Protein malnutrition may also cause a significant slowdown in various anabolic processes and hair loss. It appears that weight loss surgery is also associated with hair loss. Most weight-loss surgeries try to reduce the stomach volume in one way or another. However, this also leads to significant hormonal changes in the body. Additionally, the stomach produces many intrinsic factors needed to absorb vitamins and minerals. Thus, one of the recent studies done in 2020 in 112 women demonstrated that gastrectomy caused significant hair loss in about 725 of the patients. The study also found that hair loss generally starts after 3-4 months and lasts for about 6 months. One of the reasons why hair loss starts after 3-4 months is that the human body has sufficient stores of many micronutrients for about three months. Thus, one may feel relatively well during the first three months of a restrictive diet. However, in many cases, things become better after six months due to the discontinuation of a restrictive diet or various supplements.

Is weight loss associated with hair loss dangerous?

It may not be life-threatening. But nevertheless, it is quite harmful to health. It is because weight loss associated with hair loss is a sign of ensuing severe nutritional deficiencies. Moreover, it means that there would be many other signs like changes in heart rate, fatigue, a decline in immunity, greater risk of depression. Thus, in a small number of cases, hair loss may ultimately lead to more severe health issues. Therefore, one should treat weight loss-related hair loss as an alarm bell, which needs to be managed urgently to prevent any severe health effects. Again, the sudden demise of a renowned cricketer is a stark reminder that one should always listen to alarm bells and one’s body. It may indicate an upcoming storm, a life-threatening condition in some cases.

Managing weight loss related hair loss

Managing weight loss related hair loss is possible quite effectively by identifying the underlying nutritional deficiency and managing it. For example, in the case of weight loss surgery, supplementation with biotin and vitamin B12 along with iron may help in most cases. Studies show that supplementing with these three micronutrients would help in most cases.

These three supplements, iron, biotin, and vitamin B12, may also help in a range of other conditions like alleviating fatigue and helping reduce the severity of iron deficiency anemia. One may also add vitamin C to these efforts to further improve results. It is because vitamin C is good for enhancing the absorption of iron. Moreover, vitamin C has a direct role in stimulating specific anabolic processes. Therefore, vitamin C is quite suitable for hair and nail health and may also boost immunity. There are some other vitamins to consider to boost hair growth. For example, vitamin A in moderation may also help improve hair growth. However, never abuse this vitamin, as too much vitamin A may cause side effects like increased hair loss. Another thing to remember is that when taking vitamin Bs like biotin and B12, it may be a good idea to take other vitamin Bs, too, like riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid. The human body is more likely to develop a deficiency of water-soluble vitamins due to their lower stores than fat-soluble vitamins. Another vitamin that is good for fatigue, reducing hair loss, and producing hormones is vitamin D. Although the human body readily produces it through sunshine, not many people can spend enough time in the sunshine. One of the good ways to get vitamin D is to consume fatty fish, cod liver oil, and mushroom, as they are abundant in the vitamin and good sources of essential fatty acids. Vitamin E is another vitamin to supplement intermittently when on a stringent diet. It is suitable for skin, scalp, and hair growth, and studies show that it may help boost hair growth by as much as 30% or more in many cases.

Final thoughts

Weight loss associated with hair loss is a relatively common problem. It is prevalent among those following a crash diet for faster weight loss. In most cases, hair loss would begin after about three months on a restrictive diet. Hair loss when on a weight loss diet indicates nutritional deficiencies. It mainly shows nutrition deficiencies like iron, zinc, vitamin Bs, and other micronutrients. Fortunately, it is a reversible problem. Supplementation with micronutrients may help reverse hair growth in a few weeks. Although it is not a life-threatening condition, it should not be neglected since nutritional deficiencies may sometimes lead to more severe conditions.



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