There is no scientific evidence to suggest that whey protein in any quantity causes hair loss. The claim that protein can lead to hair loss is unfounded and incorrect. The truth of the matter is that whey protein could possibly help improve alopecia by reducing the conversion of testosterone into DHT.
What is hair loss?
Hair loss is when the hair falls out and does not grow back. Alopecia is a medical term for hair loss that occurs in patches.
Many different things can influence hair loss, including genetics, stress, aging, illness, or medication side effects. Scalp conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis can also trigger it.
Below are the different types of hair loss:
Over 50 million men and 30 million women in the United States suffer from androgenetic alopecia, the most common form of hair loss. In both men and women, androgenetic alopecia affects the hair follicles and is hereditary, but you can manage and treat it with medication or surgery.
This type of alopecia happens when a significant number of follicles on the scalp enter the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. The subsequent growth phase does not start. This failure of the growth phase to start causes hair to fall out.
Alopecia areata is a sudden and severe loss of hair caused by medical treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Hair follicles are attacked by the immune system in alopecia areata, which leads to thinning hair. New hair is unable to grow due to this condition.
These are some of the main types of alopecia. There are more causes, but the other causes are mostly fungal or disease-related, so we will not cover them.
Leading causes of hair loss in men
The most common cause of hair loss or balding in men is androgenetic alopecia. Androgenetic alopecia is also known as male pattern baldness. This condition is called male pattern baldness because it usually presents in the same pattern. The condition typically manifests itself as receding hairlines, crown baldness, or thinning hair.
The androgenetic alopecia name suggests that it involves androgen hormones, specifically testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). As young men’s testosterone levels rise, more testosterone gets converted into DHT by the 5-alpha reductase enzyme.
This elevated DHT is important because it negatively alters the hair follicles’ growth cycle. The high levels of androgens, specifically dihydrotestosterone, can cause the hair cycle to be shortened and the hair to grow thinner and shorter.
Hair grows typically for 2 to 6 years in a normal hair follicle unaffected by androgens, enters a resting phase for several months, and then falls out. As the follicle grows new hair, the cycle starts over.
Dihydrotestosterone can severely alter the hair growth cycle in the follicle, but it does not happen to everyone. There appears to be a genetic component that comes into play. However, if you have a genetic predisposition to it, elevation in your DHT levels could severely impact your hairline.
Does whey protein cause hair loss?
Whey protein does not cause hair loss, and there are no scientific studies to support the notion that whey protein can lead to hair loss in any meaningful way. In fact, Whey protein might help prevent hair loss.
You will read online and hear from so-called experts that consuming too much protein will increase testosterone. This elevated testosterone level will inevitably be converted into DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which will lead to thinning and eventually baldness.
The one major flaw in this hypothesis is that there is no evidence to suggest that eating large amounts of whey protein increases testosterone production. In fact, the opposite is true. Researchers did a study that looked at how a high protein diet versus a high carbohydrate diet affected the steroid hormones testosterone and estrogen in men.
The study had the men eat a high protein diet for 2 weeks followed by a 3 week period where the subjects eat their regular diet, after which the men eat a high carbohydrate diet for 2 weeks. The breakdown of the high protein and high carbohydrate diet is below:
High protein diet
- 44 percent of calories from protein
- 35 percent of calories from carbohydrates
- 21 percent of calories from fat
High carbohydrate diet
- 10 percent of calories from protein
- 70 percent of calories from carbohydrates
- 20 percent of calories from fat
The researchers discovered that the high protein diet actually lowered the men’s testosterone levels, and it also lowered the amount of DHT. The DHT level decreased because there was a reduction in the 5-alpha reductase enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
Since high DHT levels are the leading cause of male pattern baldness, it is safe to say that lowering it will not cause hair loss and will help prevent hair loss. So this study would suggest that eating whey protein can help slow or lessen hair loss.
As you can see, there are many different types of baldness and non of them are worsened by consuming whey protein. Also, we have shown that eating high amounts of protein does not increase testosterone and speed up or worsen hair loss. We showed that it actually decreases DHT levels and thus should help improve male pattern baldness and improve your hairline if you have thinning hair.
Protein and, more specifically, whey protein are crucial to athletes and bodybuilders for top performance, muscle recovery and muscle growth. You should not be limiting your protein consumption based on hearsay and no science. So do not listen to those who spread the unfactual notion that too much whey protein can cause hair loss. Now you can refer them to this article to set them straight and educate them on the facts surrounding protein and alopecia.
The information within this article should not be taken as medical or health advice. Consult with your doctor for health and medical advice.