Food deficiencies and hair loss, we are what we eat…

carenze alimentari e perdita dei capelli

“We are what we eat,” the famous phrase by the German philosopher Feuerbach highlighted how a person’s eating habits could clearly explain his or her physical condition.

Does this principle, however, also apply to trichology? Does nutrition affect the appearance of our hair?

The answer is “absolutely yes.”

Any dietary problem that can lead to nutritional imbalance can result in hair loss.

However, there are certain vitamins and minerals that play a key role for our hair and whose deficiency can lead to progressive deterioration of our hair:



It is an essential mineral for our hair. Iron plays a key role in the production of hemoglobin, which allows oxygen to be transported efficiently throughout the body. In cases of anemia (iron deficiency) this process is hindered, which causes the body to try to conserve oxygen by reducing the supply to body functions not considered essential including the hair growth cycle. As a consequence of this, massive hair loss can occur, which usually takes about 3 months to become particularly noticeable. Therefore, our diet should not lack foods such as red meat or in case you are vegetarian lentils, spinach, chickpeas which are the foods that provide the most iron.



This is an essential mineral for healthy hair especially for its role in cell reproduction. A zinc deficiency can lead to an interruption in the hair regrowth cycle, as seen with anemia, but in addition to causing hair loss, it can cause the hair shaft to become brittle and weak, leading the hair to break easily. Foods that provide the most zinc to the body include oysters but also the less expensive poppy and sesame seeds, wheat germ and brewer’s yeast. Note that plant phytates hinder zinc absorption so people on a vegan diet may need supplementation of this important mineral.



Selenium is a mineral that plays a major role in the normal functioning of the immune system and in protecting cells from oxidative stress, a factor that has been repeatedly related to premature baldness in men. The presence of an adequate amount of selenium in the body is critical for the process of conversion of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) to triodo-thyronine. If there is selenium deficiency, typical symptoms of hypothyroidism may occur, among which one of the most common is hair loss. Brazil nuts, brown rice, kamut, and tuna are foods that should not be missing from our tables to ensure a good supply of selenium.



Numerous studies have shown how a deficiency of vitamin D and especially vitamin D3 can lead to miniaturization of hair. In a recent article we had discussed the possible relationship between vitamin D deficiency and alopecia areata.

Vitamin D3 is available in foods of animal origin, particularly cod liver oil, sardines and salmon, and eggs. Most vitamin D is synthesized in the skin by the action of ultraviolet light. Adequate sun exposure reduces the need for vitamin D, however, supplementation of which may be important, especially during the winter months.




This water-soluble B-group vitamin is active in a great many enzyme systems in the body, and is essential for healthy skin and hair. A biotin deficiency, although quite rare, can result in hair loss or miniaturization. Biotin is particularly indicated in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis. Liver, milk, mushrooms, and egg yolk are foods that should not be lacking in our diet to allow for the proper supply of biotin to the body.

The type of hair loss that results from dietary deficiencies usually is temporary, lasting no longer than 6 months and is called telogen effluvium. In more persistent cases it can have a longer duration and is classified as chronic telogen effluvium although it is considered a temporary type of hair loss. The only situation in which permanent miniaturization can occur is when the patient has a genetic predisposition to alopecia, the occurrence of which can be accelerated by these deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals.

Therefore, it is important to have a balanced and varied diet that includes all the vitamins and minerals beneficial to our hair.


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