Nutritional and Vitamin Deficiencies That Can Cause or Worsen Hair Loss

  • 16th February 2024
  • 9 min read

Eating a nutritious diet isn't just beneficial for your overall health — it's also the key to lustrous locks!

While genetics certainly play a role in hair loss, with male pattern baldness affecting about 6.5 million men in the UK, according to the NHS, your food choices can't be underestimated [1].

Learn what a nutritional deficiency is, the link to hair thinning or loss and how to prevent it with help from hair expert Arran Isherwood at FUE Clinics.


What is a nutritional deficiency?

A nutritional deficiency occurs when your body doesn't get all the vital nutrients it needs, like vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, fats, and water.

This shortage can result in health issues, including tiredness, muscle pain, headaches and hair loss or thinning. It may stem from dietary choices, the body's ability to absorb nutrients, specific health conditions, or even lifestyle factors.


What nutritional deficiencies are linked to hair loss?

“When it comes to maintaining healthy and luscious locks, your diet plays a crucial role,” says Arran. Here are the most common deficiencies linked to hair loss.

Protein deficiency

Protein isn't just for growing muscle — it's a key player in maintaining healthy hair. Since hair follicles are predominantly composed of protein, a deficiency can weaken your hair, potentially leading to hair loss or thinning.

Surprisingly, one billion people worldwide don't have enough protein in their diet [2]. Incorporating protein-rich foods like lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, beans, and legumes into your meals can help.

Remember that the amount of protein you need may vary depending on factors like your age, sex, and physical activity level. As a general guideline, most adults require around 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, as recommended by the British Heart Foundation [3].

Iron deficiency

Although there is conflicting evidence, several studies have suggested a connection between low iron levels and hair loss [4].

We all need iron to make haemoglobin — a type of red blood cell responsible for carrying oxygen throughout your body. When you lack enough iron, it can lower haemoglobin levels in your blood. As a result, your body prioritises oxygen delivery to your essential organs. 

This means your hair follicles might not receive the oxygen and nutrients they require for healthy hair growth. The NHS suggests this condition, known as iron deficiency anaemia, is more common in women, especially during pregnancy and menstruation [5].

To combat iron deficiency and promote healthy hair, consider incorporating iron-rich foods like spinach, lentils, beans, lean meats, and fortified cereals into your diet. 

Vitamin D deficiency

When you have vitamin D deficiency, a number of symptoms can show, including tiredness, muscle pain, mood changes and hair thinning or loss. One study has revealed that when vitamin D receptors don't have an adequate supply of vitamin D, they're unable to support the normal hair growth cycle [6]. This can lead to hair prematurely entering the shedding stage of the growth cycle, resulting in the appearance of thinning hair.

According to the NHS, from early April to the end of September, most people can get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight [7]. However, from October to March, you may need to turn to supplements or increase your intake of foods high in vitamin D, like oily fish, red meat, liver, and fortified foods.

Biotin deficiency

Biotin — also known as vitamin B7 — is vital for healthy hair. If you don't have enough biotin, it can affect your keratin production; a protein that makes up your hair. This can leave your locks feeling dry and brittle, and in some cases, it might even lead to hair loss or thinning. In fact, one study found nearly 40% of women experiencing hair loss had a biotin deficiency [8].

Since your body doesn't naturally produce biotin, it's essential to obtain it from your diet. Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious food sources rich in biotin to choose from, like eggs, nuts, sunflower seeds, salmon and sweet potatoes.

Zinc deficiency

According to the NHS, zinc plays a crucial role in the growth and recovery of cells, including those in your hair follicles [9]. When you fall short on zinc, it can slow down these processes, leading to weaker hair and the potential for hair loss.

In fact, one study discovered not getting enough zinc can trigger a condition called telogen effluvium [10]. This is temporary hair loss that keeps hairs in the 'resting' stage of the hair growth cycle. 

If you suspect a lack of zinc might be affecting your hair, you can help reverse the effects by upping the intake. The NHS recommends 9.5mg of zinc per day for men and 7mg for women [11].

You'll find zinc in a variety of delicious foods, including shellfish, beef, lamb, beans, pumpkin seeds, eggs and oats. Just one medium oyster provides a whopping 96% of a woman's daily zinc needs and 75% of a man's! [12]

Keep in mind that our bodies tend to absorb zinc more efficiently from animal-based products. Therefore, if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, it's a good idea to aim for a slightly higher zinc intake to ensure you meet your nutritional needs.



How do I know if I have a nutritional or vitamin deficiency?

While the symptoms can vary depending on the specific deficiency, common signs include fatigue, weakness, hair loss, and changes in your skin, nails and hair. The most reliable way to confirm a vitamin deficiency is through a blood test, which will help guide your treatment.


How can I prevent a nutritional or vitamin deficiency?

Preventing a vitamin deficiency is all about having a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This includes: 

  • Eating a well-rounded diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products. 
  • Limiting processed foods
  • Safely get out in the sun when you can 
  • Limiting smoking and alcohol 

If you're worried about a specific nutrient, consider talking to your GP, who can recommend dietary changes or supplements if needed. 


Can over-supplementing cause hair loss?

"While vitamins are essential for your health, overdoing it with supplements can sometimes lead to unexpected consequences, including hair loss," says Arran. "An excess of certain vitamins can disrupt your body's natural balance and result in hair-related issues."

For example, too much iron in the body can trigger hair loss, according to Lloyds Pharmacy [13]. One study found iron can increase oxidative stress — an imbalance between harmful molecules called free radicals and antioxidants that neutralise them [14]. This imbalance can damage cells, including those in hair follicles.

"Maintaining a balanced approach to supplementation is essential to ensure you're meeting your specific nutritional needs without going overboard," explains Arran.


What are the other causes of hair loss?

"If you're experiencing hair loss, it's likely a vitamin deficiency isn't the only cause," says Arran. Alopecia can result from various factors including: 

  • Genetics – "Pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is often hereditary and can lead to progressive hair loss," explains Arran. "It's common in both men and women."
  • Hormonal changes – "Significant hormonal shifts, such as those during pregnancy or menopause, can disrupt the normal hair growth cycle, leading to temporary hair thinning," says Arran.
  • Medical conditions – "Certain health conditions, such as thyroid disorders, autoimmune diseases, and scalp conditions like alopecia areata, can contribute to hair loss," explains Arran.
  • Medications – Arran says: "Some medications, including chemotherapy drugs, blood thinners, and certain antidepressants, may list hair loss as a potential side effect."
  • Stress – "High-stress levels can trigger a condition known as telogen effluvium, where hair follicles prematurely enter the resting phase and lead to increased hair shedding," says Arran." 
  • Hairstyles – Arran explains: "Traction alopecia can occur when hair is consistently pulled tightly due to hairstyles like tight braids, ponytails, or extensions."


Learn more about hair transplants with FUE Clinics

Hair thinning or loss related to nutritional deficiencies typically responds well to increased nutrient intake and a balanced diet. However, genetic conditions like pattern baldness may persist regardless.

A hair transplant is a permanent treatment for alopecia, providing results for life when you choose a specialist clinic like FUE Clinics. The newly transplanted hairs blend seamlessly with your existing hair, resulting in a natural look that can boost your confidence. To learn more, read our guide to everything you need to know about hair transplant surgeries.

Book a free, no-obligation consultation to understand if you're a candidate for a hair transplant and how we can help you achieve your desired hair restoration goals. Or, read our FAQ section to discover more about our clinic and the procedures we offer. 

















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