My mother's hair is thinning. Are there any nutrition tips to prevent this?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 21, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I would like to know how to deal with non-cancer hair loss. Is there a nutritional connection I can follow-up on?


Expert Answers

Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet.

The gradual thinning of hair is often a distressing yet normal part of aging; however when the hair loss is significant and unrelated to an illness or medications, a nutrition connection is possible. Optimal hair growth requires a balanced diet and regular in take of calories. Nutrients that help synthesize protein, convert food to energy and ensure healthy red blood cells are essential for healthy hair. Long term nutritional deficiencies, particularly in iron, B vitamins, dietary protein or excesses of certain vitamins, like vitamin A, may adversely impact this normal process and result in hair loss. Here are some nutritional tips to prevent hair loss:

  1. Get adequate protein everyday. The best sources of dietary protein and iron include lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, soy, nuts, seeds and grains. Try to have some at each meal.
  2. Be sure that your mother's diet includes food sources of some of the following nutrients. You may wish to consider supporting it with a good multivitamin: a. B vitamins: cheese, milk, meat, whole grains, bananas, potatoes, green vegetables, lentils and brown rice. Biotin is a B vitamin that is especially important for hair. Good food sources of biotin include brewer's yeast, brown rice, bulgur, green peas, lentils, oats, soybeans, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. b. Zinc: oysters, beans, beef, lamb, turkey c. Copper: beef, tomato products, oysters, mushrooms, nuts, soybeans, and brown rice. d. Magnesium: whole wheat flour, oat bran, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and beans. e. Essential fatty acids: cold water fish (Salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring), flaxseed, pumpkin seeds walnuts, and sunflowers seeds.

Community Answers

I'm my own mom answered...

A 68 year old has been losing weight over several years without dieting and for the past 3-4 months has been losing a lot of hair on the top of her head (hair on back of head is thick) - she eats walnuts every day, takes a Vitamin B 100 supplement as well as a multivitamin, has chicken, eggs or meat once a day, takes iron, zinc, calcium + D, thyroid, prednisone, Omega3, and more pills. Has lost 50 pounds over last 5 years without dieting. What's happening here?