Keto and Hair Loss: Can a Low Carb Diet Help Male Pattern Baldness?
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Keto and Hair Loss: Can a Low Carb Diet Help Male Pattern Baldness?

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Keto and Hair Loss: Can a Low Carb Diet Help Male Pattern Baldness?

Posted 8 months ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton

Author

About 50% of men develop male pattern baldness by age 50.[*] It’s not typically a sign of illness, but it can be vexing nonetheless. 

Guys often joke about losing their hair. (When I told my barber to cut my hair, he asked, “which one?”) But inside, we may be anxious about going bald. 

That’s why men spend excessive time, money, and energy on hair loss prevention. Today we’ll review the causes of (and remedies for) male pattern baldness, focusing mainly on Keto hair loss-related questions. 

What Is Male Pattern Baldness?

Male pattern baldness, also called androgenetic alopecia, is the most frequent type of hair loss in men. It affects about 50% of men over 50 and 55% of women over 80.[*

The defining features of male pattern baldness are:

  1. An M-shaped balding pattern on the forehead
  2. Hair loss on the crown

Hair loss isn’t the only issue. The hair also becomes thinner and shorter because the hair follicles aren’t delivering thick, strong filaments. 

The Stress of Losing Hair

Men react in a myriad ways to hair loss. A balding man might feel:

  • Indifference
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Denial 
  • Anger
  • Embarrassment
  • Pride
  • Acceptance

Some men prefer being bald. It does simplify one's morning routine. 

But, many don’t. Despite all the quips about cue balls and Mr. Clean, male pattern baldness can be a source of tremendous stress and anxiety for the billions who experience it.

Unfortunately, stressing about hair loss isn't helping matters. 

Causes of Male Pattern Baldness

There are four leading causes of male pattern baldness:

  1. Genetic causes
  2. Hormonal issues
  3. Stress
  4. Nutrient deficiencies

Let’s review them individually. 

#1: Genetic causes

You’ve probably heard this claim. If your mother's father was bald, you’ll go bald too. 

But while moms do carry the androgen receptor gene (implicated in hair loss) on the X chromosome, the pesky mutation could come from the maternal Grandpa or Grandma.[*] Also, the androgen receptor gene isn’t the only hair-loss gene. 

Yes, researchers have identified 29 genetic mutations linked to male pattern baldness.[*] We're a long way from unraveling the genetic knot of hair loss. 

#2: Hormonal issues

Many people believe that high testosterone levels reliably predict baldness. But while some research supports this belief[*], other data—like this analysis of 373 German men[*]—does not. 

Other hormones linked to hair loss include:

  • Thyroid. Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) accelerates hair loss. Thyroid hormone replacement can help.[*
  • Insulin. Researchers have linked hair loss to insulin resistance (a precursor of type 2 diabetes) in men and women.[*
  • Cortisol. The stress hormone cortisol is no friend to healthy hair.

#3: Stress

Speaking of cortisol, stressed mice—stressed by a shock or loud noise—end up losing their hair.[*] Humans experience stress-induced hair loss (called telogen effluvium) too.[*

#4: Nutrient deficiencies

Being deficient in the following nutrients may cause (or accelerate) hair loss:

  • Zinc and copper. In one study, alopecia patients were more likely to have zinc and copper deficiencies than controls.[*
  • Iron. Reversing iron deficiency helped mice regrow lost hair, but it’s not clear what iron levels are optimal.[*
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for proper functioning hair follicles. 
  • Biotin (B7). Supplementing with vitamin B7 caused biotin-deficient patients to regrow lost hair gradually.[*]
  • Protein. Iron-deficient women lose less hair when they supplement with the amino acid lysine.[*] (Most protein sources contain lysine.) 

We’ll talk about hair loss on Keto soon. Let’s cover diet more broadly first. 

Diet and Hair Loss in Males

To reduce your risk of hair loss, reduce your risk of nutrient deficiencies. Accomplish this goal by consuming a nutrient-dense diet that supplies iron, zinc, copper, protein, biotin, and other follicle-friendly compounds. 

Also, avoid foods (like refined sugar) that lead to insulin resistance. A little sugar is okay, but the American average of 15 teaspoons per day won’t do your hair (or longevity) any favors.  

The simplest way to avoid added sugar is to spurn packaged foods. Whole foods are the way, folks. 

Does Keto Cause Hair Loss?

There’s no clinical evidence that a Keto diet causes male pattern baldness. You don’t need carbs to grow hair. 

Theoretically, a high-carb diet could expedite hair loss by driving insulin resistance. The mechanism is there.[*

Similarly, reversing metabolic issues with Keto could slow hair loss. Someone should fund that study. 

Here’s the thing. Nutrient density is the key to a hair-healthy Keto diet, and not all Keto diets are equally nutritious. 

A “dirty Keto diet” devoid of vegetables and stocked with salami sticks may cause deficiencies. A well-formulated whole foods Keto diet probably won’t. 

One last note. A Ketogenic diet may increase biotin needs—it does in mice, at least[*]—so be sure to eat plenty of biotin-rich foods like eggs, fish, meat, and offal to be safe.   

Low-Carb Foods for Hair Growth

Here are some Keto foods for zinc, copper, iron, biotin, protein, and other hair-health nutrients. 

  • Organ meats like beef liver and kidneys
  • Meat like beef, chicken, pork, and lamb
  • Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts
  • Fish like salmon, sardines, and trout
  • Eggs
  • Bivalves like clams and mussels
  • Non-starchy vegetables like kale, spinach, and broccoli

To confirm you’re getting enough nutrients, log your meals in Carb Manager. The app will tell you what you need more (or less) of. 

What About Treatments and Supplements?

Rogaine (minoxidil) and Propecia (finasteride) are the most popular hair loss medications. While these drugs can (slightly) help with hair growth, they have side effects that range from scalp irritation to impotence. And if you discontinue minoxidil, any newly grown hair falls out.[*] (Dang!)

Supplements are another matter. If you’re only getting 50% of your biotin RDA, a biotin supplement can correct an underlying cause of hair loss.  

A simple strategy is to take a well-formulated multivitamin. Check all your micronutrient boxes—zinc, copper, biotin, etc.—so you don’t have to worry about deficiencies. 

A Realistic Approach to Hair Loss

Will optimizing your nutrition guarantee hair loss prevention? Sadly, no. 

Many—and possibly most—cases of male pattern baldness are genetically driven. You can’t tinker with those genes yet. 

But there’s no downside to eating a nutrient-dense diet, managing stress, and staying metabolically flexible. If these behaviors don’t save your hair, they may still save your life. 

Comments 1

  • Taureandeb

    Taureandeb 7 months ago

    Thank you so much for this very informative article.