Does Keto Cause Hair Loss? By Bernard Arocha, MD on May 19, 2022

If you're overweight, you should know that you are not alone. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 42% of American adults are obese. And this puts them at risk of developing an array of physical health problems, some of which could take years off of their life. Some of the health problems reportedly linked to obesity include type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. Osteoarthritis is correlated with obesity as well, the study found.

Of course, physical health is not the only thing that being overweight or obese jeopardizes. Carrying around too much excess body fat can also lead to mental health problems, notes a separate study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to researchers and scientists involved in the study, obesity increases the risk of struggling with mood and anxiety disorders by around 25%. The study further revealed the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder (SUD) also increases by 25% when individuals are overweight or obese. The long and short of it is nothing good can come from letting your body fat percentage get too far out of control. Fortunately, many Americans are consciously aware of the toll that being overweight or obese can take on their physical, psychological, and, some might argue, spiritual health. As such, many are turning to several popular diets to aid them in losing weight, one of which is the keto diet.

What Everyone Should Know Before Starting a Keto Diet

The ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet, is like the Atkins diet. Both diets focus on consuming more fats and fewer carbohydrates and protein to facilitate rapid weight loss. So in that context, they are both quite effective. And this is substantiated in a 2019 review of low-carb diets published by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). But this is where the similarities end; unlike the Atkins diet, the ketogenic diet facilitates rapid weight loss by forcing the body to enter into what is known as ketosis, a metabolic state whereby the body uses fat rather than carbs for fuel. To achieve ketosis, which, in turn, leads to rapid weight loss, individuals must limit their consumption of carbohydrates to 20 to 50 grams each day and fill up on fats instead, which can be in the form of meat, eggs, fish, and healthy oils, for example. Generally speaking, individuals who follow a ketogenic diet can expect to lose between 1 to 10 pounds per week.

Does Keto Cause Hair Loss?

While most people trying to slim down and improve their overall health see the ketogenic diet as the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone, there is a downside to following any variation of this popular diet. And that downside is several side effects, thinning hair being among them. This particular side effect goes hand-in-hand with all variations of the keto diet, which, by the way, comprises the following:

  • The standard ketogenic diet (SKD)
  • The cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD)
  • The targeted ketogenic diet (TKD)

What You Should Know About Keto Hair Loss

According to several studies, the drastic reduction in protein intake, which all ketogenic diets call for, can trigger thinning hair. Of course, this is not too surprising when you consider how critical of a role protein plays in how the human body looks and functions. Dietary protein found in meat, fish, eggs, and the like helps supply the body with keratin, an amino acid that plays a critical role in maintaining healthy hair. Low keratin levels resulting from the deliberate reduction of one's protein intake can give way to dry, brittle, and, worse yet, thinning hair. Further, low keratin levels can open the door to even more nutrient deficiencies that have the potential to affect hair health. When the body does not get enough keratin, its ability to effectively absorb the following nutrients is compromised:

  • Folate (B9)
  • Selenium
  • Choline
  • Vitamins A, E, and D
  • Chromium
  • Iodine
  • Magnesium
  • Molybdenum

While we are on the topic of nutrient deficiencies, it is worth noting that biotin deficiency is also strongly associated with all variations of the ketogenic diet. And low biotin levels, as a result of not consuming enough biotin-rich foods, such as fruits and legumes, can cause some people to lose hair.

How Following a Ketogenic Diet Disrupts Functions in the Body

Whenever the body receives fewer calories, it will make sure to use energy from those calories to carry out the most critical bodily functions first. And this means cell growth and making sure the heart, lungs, and other organs remain healthy are first on the list. Those things that are less critical, such as healthy skin, nails, hair, and so on, will have to come second. This prioritization explains why severe calorie restriction and nutrient deficiencies leave some individuals with weak, brittle nails and hair, not to mention dull-looking skin.

What You Can Do to Prevent Hair Loss While Following a Keto Diet

While following a ketogenic diet can help with rapid weight loss, it is clear that it can also set the stage for nutrient deficiencies that culminate in hair loss. Fortunately, it is possible to avoid this horrible side effect; and it comes down to making smart food choices. There are plenty of keto-friendly foods individuals can eat and still enter ketosis and, as a byproduct of that, lose weight. To combat biotin deficiency, for example, it helps to consume the following:

  • Almonds, walnuts, and peanuts
  • Cauliflower
  • Egg yolks
  • Liver
  • Mushrooms

Since vitamin C deficiency is often associated with following a ketogenic diet, it is probably a good idea to also consume foods chock-full of this vitamin to help keep hair loss at bay. Some of the keto-friendly, vitamin c-rich foods you will want to eat more of include

  • Yellow peppers
  • Kale
  • Oranges
  • Mustard spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Parsley and thyme

Making the Right Choice in Proteins While Following a Keto Diet

The body still needs protein to function while following a keto diet, but consuming animal-based protein can prevent you from entering ketosis and losing weight. Therefore, it would be a good idea to consume plant-based proteins instead. Examples of such protein-rich, plant-based foods include the following:

  • Chia seeds
  • Foods made from soybeans, such as tempeh, tofu, and edamame
  • Green peas
  • Nuts
  • Seitan and other plant-based meat substitutes
  • Spinach, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts

The best way to avoid thinning hair, outright hair loss, and other unfortunate side effects directly linked to following a ketogenic diet is to eat foods that allow you to compensate for nutrient deficiencies. And this means getting enough of every one of the vitamins and minerals discussed in this article.

Final Thoughts on Protecting Your Precious Hair Follicles While Following a Ketogenic Diet

All in all, hair loss is a possibility when following a keto-based diet. But being mindful of the foods you consume can lower the chances of it happening. If you do find you're losing hair on this high carb, low-fat, and low-protein diet, it would be in your best interest to speak with a nutritionist, dietician, or physician as soon as feasibly possible. Lastly, if you have lost a considerable amount of hair and would like to learn about hair restoration treatments that can improve your appearance, feel free to contact the Arocha Hair Restoration and Hair Transplant Center today.


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Since 2002, Bernardino A. Arocha, M.D. has been transforming lives through the power of hair restoration. With an artistic approach and a variety of procedures available, Arocha Hair Restoration has a track record of providing stunning results. Dr. Arocha is affiliated with prominent organizations with memberships that include:

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