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Review
. 2002 Jul;27(5):396-404.
doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2230.2002.01076.x.

Nutritional Factors and Hair Loss

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Review

Nutritional Factors and Hair Loss

D H Rushton. Clin Exp Dermatol. .

Abstract

The literature reveals what little is known about nutritional factors and hair loss. What we do know emanates from studies in protein-energy malnutrition, starvation, and eating disorders. In otherwise healthy individuals, nutritional factors appear to play a role in subjects with persistent increased hair shedding. Hård, 40 years ago, demonstrated the importance of iron supplements in nonanaemic, iron-deficient women with hair loss. Serum ferritin concentrations provide a good assessment of an individual's iron status. Rushton et al. first published data showing that serum ferritin concentrations were a factor in female hair loss and, 10 years later, Kantor et al. confirmed this association. What level of serum ferritin to employ in subjects with increased hair shedding is yet to be definitively established but 70 micro g/L, with a normal erythrocyte sedimentation rate (< 10 mm/h), is recommended. The role of the essential amino acid, l-lysine in hair loss also appears to be important. Double-blind data confirmed the findings of an open study in women with increased hair shedding, where a significant proportion responded to l-lysine and iron therapy. There is no evidence to support the popular view that low serum zinc concentrations cause hair loss. Excessive intakes of nutritional supplements may actually cause hair loss and are not recommended in the absence of a proven deficiency. While nutritional factors affect the hair directly, one should not forget that they also affect the skin. In the management of subjects with hair loss, eliminating scaling problems is important as is good hair care advice and the need to explain fully the hair cycle. Many individuals reduced their shampooing frequency due to fear of losing more hair but this increases the amount seen in subsequent shampoos fuelling their fear of going bald and adversely affecting their quality of life.

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