Does Poor Nutrition Cause Hair Loss?

Laser therapy for scalp and hair

Our hair’s condition tells us a lot about our general health. Healthy individuals acquire enough nutrients from their diet, which helps their bodies (both internal and external) to thrive. However, many people do not have adequate nutrition. Some may not be eating enough of what they need or have a genetically predisposed nutritional deficiency, which can reflect in changes in the skin, scalp, and body hair.

While hair follicles are continuously regenerating, studies show calorie and protein malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency have a very complex link to hair loss or alopecia.

Protein-Energy Malnutrition

Protein-energy malnutrition is more common in children but can also be observed in adults. The hair appears to be fine, brittle, and dry in people with this condition. There is also a slower growth rate and considerable hair loss. These effects are due to a lack of keratin, a structural protein that makes up our skin, nails, and hair.


Iron deficiency is the world’s most common nutritional deficiency and is also linked to hair shedding and hair loss. Iron contributes to hemoglobin production, the protein that carries oxygen to your tissues and organs.

Iron deficiency causes low hemoglobin and oxygen levels. Because the hair follicles need nutrients and oxygen to grow healthy, a lack of iron can contribute to hair shedding and hair loss. Iron is available in meat, poultry, and fish. Vitamin C consumption alongside eating foods rich in iron enhances iron absorption.


Hair loss is often a symptom of zinc deficiency. Zinc is an essential component of enzymes involved in protein synthesis and cell division. It also has a role in certain biological pathways that stimulate hair follicle morphogenesis. Our bodies cannot produce zinc on their own. Thus, you must obtain it by eating foods rich in zinc, like meat and fish.


Biotin is a cofactor of enzymes. It is present in many foods and synthesized in the gut. Therefore, it is rare to be biotin deficient. A deficiency can, however, be genetic. Genetic biotin deficiency results in infants with severe alopecia. Eyebrows, eyelashes, and fine neonatal hair may also be absent.

Selenium and Essential Fatty Acids

Selenium is an essential trace element found in soil. It plays a role in protection from oxidative damage as well as hair follicle morphogenesis.  On the other hand, essential fatty acids make up the outermost layer of the skin.

Selenium and essential fatty acid deficiency can cause changes in the hair, similar to a zinc deficiency. These may include diffused hair loss of the scalp and eyebrows as well as hair hypopigmentation.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Pellagra results from niacin deficiency and is characterized by the “four Ds”—dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and death. Clinical findings also frequently report alopecia. Niacin deficiency has become rare in many developed countries through vitamin fortification.

Vitamin D

In mice models, vitamin D deficient mice developed hair loss. Studies show that vitamin D is involved in the growth phase of the hair cycle. It plays a role in stimulating hair follicles. Without enough vitamin D, hair growth can be affected. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to alopecia.

Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include inadequate sun exposure, obesity, and fat malabsorption.

Vitamin A and Vitamin E

Deficiency in both of these vitamins has no known link to hair loss. However, there has been evidence that excess supplementation for vitamins A and E have adverse effects on hair growth and has a strong connection to hair loss.

Hair Loss Treatments in Kansas City, West Des Moines & Liberty, MO

Your hair can clue you and your doctor in about underlying health issues, including having poor nutrition. Screening your medical history, dietary history, and conducting a physical exam for risk factors for nutrient deficiency are essential to identify if poor nutrition is causing your hair loss.

At Darling Hair Restoration, we can help you with that. One of our goals is to help our patients understand the root cause of your condition. Our team is headed by Dr. Scott Darling, a leading hair restoration specialist. He can assess you through a hair loss evaluation before recommending a tailor-fit treatment for you.

For questions and other concerns, contact us at (816) 792-3400 or request an appointment online.