Baldness or malnutrition?
February 11, 2007 9:11 PM   Subscribe

Is my hair thin because I am a vegetarian or because I am a 36 year old male?

I have been a vegetarian since the summer of 1999. Over the course of the last three or four years, I have noticed my hair seems thinner, especially in the front and sides. It does not seem like male pattern baldness (I don't look like I am balding, but when my hair is longer, it looks kind of thin compared to years past).

Hair isn't that important to me, but I am curious. I am really a little worried, because I am not the best vegetarian in the world. I am probably a little high on the carbs and a little low on the protein (I don't eat that much tofu or beans).

So hive mind, tell me: am I suffering from thinning hair or malnutrition?
posted by 4ster to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This will hold a possible answer.
posted by parmanparman at 9:19 PM on February 11, 2007

parmanparman: that is very helpful. Do you have any idea how long it would take for improved nutrition to make a noticable difference?
posted by 4ster at 9:31 PM on February 11, 2007

Actually, it's much more likely that you're losing your hair because you chose your parents wrong. Nutrition isn't likely to have anything to do with it, and changing your eating habits won't turn it around.

As to "male pattern baldness" there are several different patterns.

And mid 30's is when it usually starts showing up.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:05 PM on February 11, 2007

Anecdotal, but I'll throw it out there anyway. I'm 32, I've been a terrible vegetarian for 20 years and baldness runs in my family. My brother is five years older and not a vegetarian and we've lost about the same amount of hair.
posted by hootch at 10:28 PM on February 11, 2007

I'm with Steven on this one.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:28 PM on February 11, 2007

That came out saying the exact opposite of what I meant to say. We'd lost the same amount of hair at the same ages. I have the same amount of hair at 32 that he had when he was 32.
posted by hootch at 10:31 PM on February 11, 2007

Perhaps I should admit that I'm not speaking from personal experience. I'm 53 and I still have all my hair. (nyaa nyaa!)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:06 PM on February 11, 2007

Speaking as someone who has been a vegetarian for the past thirteen years (since the age of thirteen), and not always in the healthiest of ways (hello, teenage years!), my hair is pretty shiny and not really thin.

Of course, I'm a woman, but the Go Ask Alice page up there could apply to either gender, and I sure as heck don't show any of those signs.

My hair also grows just fine. I wore it down to my thighs for about 10 years or more. It's grown from about inches past my shoulders to lower mid-back in six months.

Sounds to me like it's more likely a result of age and genetics.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:53 PM on February 11, 2007

Since baldness is supposed to be passed down from your mothers side of the family, what sort of hair does your grandfather on your mothers side have?

I'm the same age plus or minus a year, and while I don't think I'm going bald, there isn't a day when I wash my hair and don't have a scary amount of hair in the drain... But no real receeding hairline or thinness that I can notice.

Go to your neighborhood health food store and look for the "Hair and Nail" type supplements. Take them for a month and see if you notice any difference. If you do, then you're missing something in your diet. If you don't, then you're just going bald/thinning...
posted by zengargoyle at 11:53 PM on February 11, 2007

It's grown from about inches past my shoulders

That should be "6 inches".
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:54 PM on February 11, 2007

don't look like I am balding, but when my hair is longer, it looks kind of thin compared to years past

This sounds like a very good description of my (meat eating) boyfriend about seven years ago. Now he's very definitely balding (and has lost the lovely curls he once had *sniff*). So yeah, probably just yourgenetics kicking in and changing the testosterone tolerance of your follicles.

However, improved nutrition isn't going to hurt your hair any and argueably has other benefits making it worthwhile. Even if male pattern baldness is at work, good nutrition is likely to make the most of what hair you have. So you might as well address that and try to maximise your nutritional intake.

In addition to the zinc and vitamin B mentioned in parmanparman's link up there iron deficiency can cause thinning hair or hair loss. These things can all be related as they are commonly found in meat. So take a second look at your diet, make sure you're getting enough leafy vegetables etc and maybe take a multi vitamin if you think that's necessary. It might make your hair thicker, it might pay off in some other way, and it's probably not going to be too difficult to make at least some improvements.
posted by shelleycat at 11:55 PM on February 11, 2007

Since baldness is supposed to be passed down from your mothers side of the family, what sort of hair does your grandfather on your mothers side have?

It's actually more complicated than that unfortunately and heritance patterns are unclear. So it's not as easy as looking at certain family members and assuming what will happen to you. Also, even if it was that easy you only have a chance of inheriting (it's not a given, e.g. two brothers can have very different amounts of hair), so even then it wouldn't be diagnostic in this case.

I always assumed the mothers family thing was true, it's certainly repeated in the media and such places a lot, and was surprised when I did some scientific type reading about it all and found it's not borne out by the literature.
posted by shelleycat at 11:59 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally: could be protein. My sister revamped her nutrition about a year ago and bumped up the protein in a big way. She had the goal of muscle building, but she ended up hair building as well. Her hair is thicker and filling in at her hairline (it wasn't receding, but that's where the new growth is noticeable.)

She had a fair number of nutrition resources that supported her discovery and pointed to protein as a possible booster.

Whether or not you end up with more hair, reevaluating your diet might be a good thing.
posted by nita at 6:50 AM on February 12, 2007

It's not unusual for hair to thin out somewhat when you hit your mid-thirties, even if you aren't going bald. It's happened to me, and some female friends have told me that it's happened to them as well. All of us meat-eaters, incidentally.
posted by adamrice at 7:20 AM on February 12, 2007

Anecdotal, but I figured I'd toss it out there...

I've been a vegetarian for a long time and have always had thick hair. I'm in my mid-20's and my diet has never really seemed to affect hair growth at all (and I've gone through periods of eating very well, and eating terribly).
posted by dead_ at 8:09 AM on February 12, 2007

Anecdotal as well, but I've been vegetarian as well since Autumn 1999. And not the healthy, well-balanced, tofu-and-beans-eating kind. In my early 30s now, no hair loss. I think it is genetically determined, bar extremes of nutritional deprivation.
posted by Boobus Tuber at 8:54 AM on February 12, 2007

Vegetarian all my life. Long, luxurious hair. Also a kickin' beard.
posted by klangklangston at 3:14 PM on February 12, 2007

Thanks for the help, everyone. I'll just sell my combs.

I will also look into those supplements. Apparently, my multiviatim provides "300%" of the RDA for B12, so hopefully, I have that one knocked out.
posted by 4ster at 8:04 PM on February 12, 2007

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