It seems that vegetarianism, particularly among young teenagers, is becoming more popular, and although many children are brought up vegetarian because their parents are, young adults are easily influenced by their vegetarian peers – or they may read that this or that celebrity is vegetarian and think it cool if they follow suit. There are many degrees of being a vegetarian, beginning with just not eating meat but still eating chicken, fish and eggs. Others don’t eat meat or chicken, then the more ‘serious’ ones eat no animal or fish but perhaps eggs or only cheese. Finally, we have vegans, who eat nothing appertaining to animals, only vegetables and fruits.
Before continuing, I must say that I respect a person’s choice if they do not want to eat meat or other animal protein. But the fact remains that vegetarianism affects the growth of hair. Not everybody’s. Much depends on genetic predisposition. Some people have such good hair genes that no matter what they do, their hair doesn’t seem to suffer. It’s like teeth: many hardly ever go to a dentist, eat sweets all day but still have good teeth – it’s a matter of luck. However, as a percentage, I see far more vegetarians with hair thinning problems than any other group.
Many vegetarians realize that because of the way they eat, they need to take vitamin and mineral supplements. And in doing so they think everything is fine. It’s often not, and indeed sometimes can cause hair loss, by taking too much vitamin A for example.
I have said before that hair is protein. Proteins consist of amino acids, some of which are ‘essential’ while others are ‘non-essential’. The essential amino acids include Argimine, Histinide, Isoleucine, Leucine, L Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalamine, Threonine, Tryptophen and Valine. They are most plentiful in animal protein and more easily absorbed in this way. The problem with eating only vegetables is that you need to consume a huge quantity to absorb sufficient amino acids to produce required energy, particularly teenagers, whose requirements are often not fully met. Without enough protein intake, energy is less available for tissue synthesis – the production of cells for tissues such as the hair follicles – whose requirements are very high due to the rapidity of hair-cell reproduction.
Deficiencies of calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins D, B12 and B6 are also common, and it is important to take all of these in supplemental form if you remain vegetarian. Blood tests will tell you how much iron or zinc or B12 you need to take so that you don’t overdose. See more about Vegetarian Nutritionist Resource.