Photo via Flickr user Geoff Peters
The health benefits of the vegan diet are well-documented; weight loss, disease prevention, no inadvertent antibiotic consumption from factory-farmed meat—the list goes on.But what's it all worth if it means you can't have a thick, lush head of hair? Or, worse yet, what if it makes you go bald?A recent report by the Daily Express, with the sensational title "EXCLUSIVE: NOT eating BACON could make you lose your HAIR", explored the rise of skin and hair ailments that are supposedly the "direct result" of a vegan diet.
Dr. Thomy Kouremada-Zioga, a hair transplant surgeon at the Private Clinic of Harley Street, told the Daily Express that she has noticed a significant increase of patients who follow a strict vegan diet, a phenomenon she chalks up to the dietary restrictions that vegans impose on themselves.
"A vegan diet completely eliminates important food groups such as meat, fish and dairy. These particular food groups provide the body with key vitamins and nutrients which contribute to the growth of healthy hair," Kouremada-Zioga said. "Hair loss and hair thinning can be directly linked to a vegan diet. Nutritional imbalances associated with a vegan diet can cause the patients' hair to become brittle and to break easily."While it's normal to lose about 100 hairs per day, according to Dr. Kouremada-Zioga, she claims that the vegans that she is treating are losing far more because of the lack of nutrients associated with a total absence of animal products.MUNCHIES spoke with Dr. Angela Eakin, a family medicine physician with a background in nutrition, about the claim that a vegan diet can be detrimental to the health of hair and whether eating bacon can save one's hair."It's important to make the distinction between a vegan diet and a whole-food plant-based diet," Dr. Eakin said. "You can be vegan and eat Oreos, Twizzlers, and vegan Ben & Jerry's ice cream all day long, and you can be very unhealthy and be deficient in multiple vitamins and minerals."
With that in mind, Dr. Eakin went on to debunk the myth of balding vegans. "You can be a junk-food vegan; it's unhealthy and might lead to weight loss," she said. "But eating a whole-food plant-based vegan diet is not associated with hair loss whatsoever. You're going to be getting all of the vitamins and minerals, specifically the ones that people are concerned about for hair growth, like iron, zinc, and biotin."In fact, a well-balanced vegan diet is actually beneficial for the follicularly challenged, according to Dr. Eakin. "All the evidence suggests that a vegan diet is protective not only against hair loss, but all of the diseases that can actually kill an individual like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes."One area where Dr. Eakin agrees with Kouremada-Zioga is that anyone considering a vegan diet should probably talk to a professional first—but with one caveat. "I would recommend that people consult a physician who is aware of the benefits of a vegan diet. A lot of the medical community is still confused or misled about the lack of risk involved with a vegan diet."