JEAN TONG, NUTRITIONIST, HALLEY MEDICAL AESTHETICS
“Why you eat so much salty food. Hair drop then you know!” How often have we heard our mother (or grandmother) go a pitch higher when they see us pile on the salt during meal times. But does a high salt intake really lead to hair loss? We hear this correlation between salt and hair loss so often that we take it to be true. Here are the low-downs to this question.
Salt and hair loss
Contrary to this myth, there is no substantial evidence to date to show that a high salt intake causes hair loss directly. Salt contains sodium, which when taken in moderation, helps our body maintain its fluids balance. Salt is also very much needed for the proper functioning of our nerves. Additionally, our blood volume and pressure depend on sodium to stay well regulated. All these are important in keeping our body functioning well, which is essential for healthy hair growth.
While there is no evidence to show the direct association between high salt intake and hair loss, there may be an indirect link. Too much sodium intake at more than 2,300 mg a day is generally not good for our health. This can result in blood pressure elevation, possibly leading to high blood pressure. There are some studies showing medications for high blood pressure and hypertension causing hair thinning and hair loss. The bottom-line is, therefore, to take salt and sodium in moderation. To be precise, we should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, which is equivalent to about one teaspoon of salt.
Diet and hair loss
Hair is considered a connective tissue of our body. It has a comparable composition profile as our skin, nails, and other connective tissues. These tissues need an array of nutrients to grow well and be healthy. In the context of hair, there are certain nutrients that are vital for healthy hair growth, which could possibly help prevent hair loss. What are they?
Protein and Iron
Hair is composed of keratin, a protein substance in our body. We need adequate protein in our diet, and we must be able to digest and utilise this protein too, in order to supply enough protein to our hair for healthy hair growth.
If our diet is running low in protein, or we are on a lower quality protein diet such as a vegetarian diet comprising mainly tofu, seeds, or beans, it makes sense that our hair integrity may be compromised. So if you want to prevent hair loss, be sure to have enough protein-rich foods such as good quality lean meat (e.g. beef, chicken, pork, fish), as well as green leafy vegetables in your diet.
Additionally, iron deficiency and/or a lack of vitamin C in the diet may be the reason behind hair loss. Iron is needed to transport oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from our body tissues—all of which are needed for healthy hair growth. Most protein-rich foods such as meat are good sources of iron.
Essential fatty acids
Some studies support the role of inadequate essential fatty acids (EFAs) intake in hair loss, as well as dry flaky scalp. These EFAs are polyunsaturated fats and they have been found to be vital for locking moisture into our skin and hair cells to keep them supple. A healthy scalp is important in preventing hair loss.
EFAs include omega-6 present in vegetables and red meat, as well as omega-3 present in oily ﬁshes such as salmon or mackerel and marine animals. Other sources rich in EFAs include avocados and nuts.
We should not forget that healthy hair growth stems from the scalp, which is part of our skin. Hence, in the dietary management of hair loss, we want to make sure that we have enough nutrients essential for a healthy scalp, thus eliminating scaling problems.
It has long been recognised that some chronic scaling conditions of the scalp leading to increased hair shedding and temporary reduction in hair density. So be sure to have sufficient amounts of B-complex vitamins, vitamins C and E, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, zinc, bioavailable copper, and other vitamins and minerals for healthy scalp and hence hair growth.