How Your Diet Causes Hair Loss and Premature Graying

Let’s face it: we live in a culture obsessed with physical appearance. Ads and images promoting alarmingly bright white teeth, glowing skin and thick, lustrous hair bombard us from every form of media. If that wasn’t enough, the very act of growing old is treated as almost criminal and much of the population devotes many hours weekly in the battle against signs of aging. According to a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, we could simply spend a fraction of the time and money we devote to this battle by simply shifting our diet.

The study, published in Nature journal’s Scientific Reports found that eating a western diet (or as I prefer to call it, the Standard American Diet (SAD) contributes to both hair loss and hair graying. Additionally, it can contribute to inflammation in the skin, leading to a range of skin conditions, including dermatitis and lesions.

The Standard American Diet is one that is high in animal foods (and therefore animal fat, known as saturated fat), white sugar and sugary foods, soda, fried foods, prepared and processed foods and the high amounts of fat, sugar and food additives they contain. According to the scientists at Johns Hopkins University, these dietary habits are not just making us overweight and prone to heart disease, they are also causing our hair to gray and become thinner, and making our skin vulnerable, too.

Researchers found that the fatty diet consumed by most people disrupted glycosphingolipids (GLS) in the body. GLS are lipids found in both the cells on the top layer of the skin and those that control the pigment of the skin, eyes and hair. Poor diet choices altered production of these fats and resulted in both hair loss and premature graying.

The researchers found that a diet high in fat and cholesterol – the diet eaten by most people on a daily basis – had a negative effect on three lipids linked to skin health. Lipids are fats and fat-like substances used by the body to perform a number of functions from providing us with energy to assisting with the production of hormones. The lipid ceramide is found in the membrane of cells and helps to keep skin moisturized. Ceramide levels dropped as a result of the fatty western diet.  Similarly, glucosylceramides, another skin-protecting lipid also declined. The researchers also noted that lactosylceramide, a lipid involved in creating inflammation responses in our skin, actually increased three-fold with the typical western diet.

So, what’s a person caught in the disastrous spiral of poor eating to do? Here are some simple ways to transform your diet:

Keep an Open Mind

If you think eating healthily is not satisfying or will mean you have to cut out your favorite foods, you’ll need to rethink the main barrier to healthy eating—your mind. The best foods I’ve ever eaten (and I’m a food lover!) have been healthy. So, stop thinking you can only eat iceberg lettuce and starchy tomatoes if you want to feel better and look healthier. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Start Reading Labels

Most of the foods we eat are packed with synthetic ingredients, harmful fats and excessive amounts of sugar. Start reading labels and avoid foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce or high amounts of fat and sugar.

Eat More Plant-Based Foods

If you’re like most people, you have the crazy idea that if you eat more vegetables you won’t get enough protein or calcium. That’s simply the machinations of meat and dairy marketing boards over many decades. Start eating less meat and dairy (which are high in unhealthy fats, among other problems) and eat more plant-based protein-rich foods like nuts (raw, unsalted almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, etc.), seeds (flaxseeds, hempseeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, etc.), legumes (black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.), and plant-based alternatives to meat, milk and cheese. The world of plant-based eating has come a long way since the earliest tofu hot dogs.

Eat Colorful Foods

The nutrient content of many foods is first recognizable by bright colors, including: yellow peppers, orange carrots or squashes, red tomatoes, blueberries and blackberries, to name a few. Make sure you eat a wide range of brilliant-colored fruits and vegetables every day.

Of course, there are many other ways to transform your Standard American Diet into a healthier one, but these suggestions are good places to start.

Related Stories:

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your LifeFollow her work.


Hannah K
Hannah K27 days ago

thanks for posting

Winn A
Winn Aabout a month ago


Chad Anderson
Chad Andersonabout a month ago

Thank you.

Olivia M
Olivia Mabout a month ago

Thank you

Dennis Hall
Dennis Habout a month ago


Elizabeth M
Past Member about a month ago

Thanks for sharing noted

Steve McCrea
Steve McCreaabout a month ago

So eating crappy food is bad for you? Who would have guessed!

Margie FOURIEabout a month ago

Thank you

Fran F
Fran Fabout a month ago

Thanks for posting!

Janis K
Janis Kabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.