Hair loss warning: Study finds popular food eaten in the UK ‘accelerates’ hair thinning

Hair loss: Dr Ranj discusses causes of male pattern baldness

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The causes of hair loss are manifold: it can have genetic, psychological and lifestyle origins. In regards to the latter, a high-fat diet has been shown to trigger the mechanisms that underpin hair loss. The finding was published in the journal Nature.

Although overweight people have a higher risk of androgenic alopecia, whether obesity accelerates hair thinning, how and the molecular mechanisms have been largely unknown.

To plug this gap in knowledge, researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) used mouse model experiments to examine how a high-fat diet or genetically induced obesity can affect hair thinning and loss.

The authors found that a high-fat diet and obesity can lead to depletion of hair follicle stem cells (HFSCs) through the induction of certain inflammatory signals, blocking hair follicle regeneration and ultimately resulting in loss of hair follicles.

Normally, HFSCs self-renew every hair follicle cycle. This is part of the process that allows our hair to continuously grow back.

As humans age, HFSCs fail to replenish themselves leading to fewer HFSCs and therefore hair thinning.

“High-fat diet feeding accelerates hair thinning by depleting HFSCs that replenish mature cells that grow hair, especially in old mice,” said lead author of the study Hironobu Morinaga.

“We compared the gene expression in HFSCs between HFD-fed mice and standard diet-fed mice and traced the fate of those HFSCs after their activation.

“We found that those HFSCs in HFD-fed obesed mice change their fate into the skin surface corneocytes or sebocytes that secrete sebum upon their activation. Those mice show faster hair loss and smaller hair follicles along with depletion of HFSCs.”

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Ways to curb hair loss

Conversely, what you put into your body can also promote hair growth.

Some of the promising studies to date have been performed on pumpkin seed oil.

Pumpkin seed oil has been shown to block the action of 5-alpha reductase in rats.

This is significant because 5-alpha-reductase is the enzyme that converts testosterone into the much more potent androgen, DHT.

If 5-AR levels increase, more testosterone will be converted into DHT, and greater hair loss will result.

Researchers in a study published in the journal Hindawi sought to replicate this effect in humans.

A study was designed to investigate the efficacy and tolerability of pumpkin seed oil for treatment of hair growth in male patients with mild to moderate androgenetic alopecia (AGA) – a common form of hair loss in both men and women.

Seventy six male patients with AGA received 400 mg of pumpkin seed oil per day or a placebo for 24 weeks.

Change over time in scalp hair growth was evaluated by four outcomes: assessment of standardised clinical photographs by an investigator; patient self-assessment scores; scalp hair thickness; and scalp hair counts.

What did the researchers find?

The pumpkin seed oil-treated group had more hair after treatment than at baseline, compared to the placebo group.

Mean hair count increases of 40 percent were observed in pumpkin seed oil-treated men at 24 weeks, whereas increases of 10 percent were observed in placebo-treated men.

According to the NHS, finasteride and minoxidil are the main treatments for male pattern baldness.

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