Can Obesity Cause Hair Loss?
It is well known that obesity can contribute to a range of health conditions, from heart disease to Type 2 diabetes. However, what is not as well known is obesity’s link to hair loss.
According to Top Wire News, a new study from Tokyo Medical and Dental University used a mouse model to examine how a high-fat diet or genetically induced obesity can cause hair thinning and loss.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature, found that obesity can result in the depletion of hair follicle stem cells (HFSCs) via the creation of certain inflammatory signals, which block hair follicle regeneration, consequently resulting in the loss of hair follicles.
Usually, HFSCs will automatically renew every hair follicle cycle, which is why our hair grows back after being cut. However, as we age, the HFSCs start to fail to renew themselves, which results in thinning hair, and in some cases baldness.
It has been known for a while that obesity can contribute to androgenic alopecia, also known as pattern baldness in men, but the exact role that obesity plays in hair thinning has been largely unknown.
The study also found that changes in the hair and skin of the mice occurred after just four days on a high-fat diet. The team also noticed significant increases in oxidative stress, which is known to affect hair loss.
“High-fat diet feeding accelerates hair thinning by depleting HFSCs that replenish mature cells that grow hair, especially in old mice,” says the lead author of the study Hironobu Morinaga.
He explained that by comparing the gene expression in HFSCs between mice fed a high-fat diet, and those on a standard diet, the researchers could determine the fate of the HFSCs after activation.
“We found that those HFSCs in the high-fat-diet-fed obese mice change their fate into the skin surface corneocytes or sebocytes that secrete sebum upon their activation. Those mice showed faster hair loss and smaller hair follicles along with depletion of HFSCs,” Morinaga said.
These findings have challenged previous beliefs that held hair loss is caused by rapid weight loss and stress.
One certified trichologist and founder of Advanced Trichology said he had previously witnessed hair loss in patients who switched to high-fat diets like keto.
He said: “This type of hair loss falls under inflammatory hair loss. We typically try to make dietary changes to eat correctly for their blood type.”
The average person’s scalp contains more than 150,000 hairs, each at one of three phases - the growing phase (anagen), the static phase (catagen) or the shedding phase (telogen). It is perfectly normal to lose hair, and we can lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day, often without noticing.
The study has provided interesting new insights into how obesity, whether via a high-fat diet or due to genetics, affects cellular changes and tissue dysfunction, which will be of interest to researchers looking for the future prevention of hair thinning or hair loss.
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