A month rarely passes without sugar making the news. That it’s not good for us is, it seems, an unavoidable truth. Most recently, Jamie Oliver has launched his Sugar Rush campaign, highlighting the detrimental effects hidden sugar is having on our children’s dental health and the role it plays in Type 2 diabetes. But did you know that it might be damaging your hair, too?
How can sugar affect my hair?
It is not a new concept that diet has a role to play in having healthy hair with many quarters naming iron, protein and biotin as key ingredients for glossy locks, but sugar is rarely mentioned. However, the view of Panos Vasiloudes, dermatologist and medical director of Danish hair loss clinic Harklinikken, is that a high intake of sugar can play havoc with your hormones which in turn deliver a shock to the hair: “a rapid glucose spike in the blood causes an overreaction by several hormones, most notably insulin and steroids. The result is a roller coaster of sugar peaks and valleys.” These abnormal highs and lows of testosterone, adrenaline, glucose, insulin, steroids, coritsone and many other hormones, can result in generalised hair thinning. Also at play is glycation: the damage and inflammation (at cellular level) resulting from an overload of processed sugary foods; the scalp, and therefore the hair follicles, are susceptible to the deleterious effects of glycation.
What can I do about it?
While the obvious answer is ‘cut out sugar’ you need not adopt an austere diet, rather leave those sugary, processed foods full of empty calories on the shelf and choose instead foods rich in fibre, protein, and nutrients. Ditch the sweetened drinks in favour of plenty of water, and swap sweets for a seed and nut mix. And were you aware that exercising has a positive impact on how the body metabolises sugar? It improves the function of the insulin receptors which means that less insulin is produced, less fat stored – and fewer blood sugar spikes that can damage the physiologic hair cycle occur. A body fuelled by unprocessed, nutritious food is a more balanced body, one whose fluctuating hormones don’t shock the natural hair cycle, and one whose scalp receives all the nutrients and goodness it needs to produce healthy, lustrous locks. So next time you reach for a chocolate bar, pause and spare a thought for your hair.