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Does Whey Protein Isolate Cause Hair Loss

Published : Nov 29, 2021 5 mins read Updated On : Nov 28, 2023

Hair loss is a common concern affecting both men and women globally. Roughly 80% of men and 50% of women will encounter hair loss during their lifetimes, leading to widespread worry about its causes. Protein supplements have gained popularity across the world, particularly whey protein for those trying to develop muscle mass. Whey Protein Isolate (WPI), which is highly processed, is found in most protein supplements, as is whey protein concentrate (WPC), which is less common but less processed. Many gym-goers wonder if protein powder causes hair loss. Let’s address the relation between whey protein and weight loss.

What is Whey Protein?

Whey protein is a high-quality protein derived from milk during the cheese-making process. It constitutes two main proteins, whey concentrate and whey isolate. Whey is rich in essential amino acids, including branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), vital for muscle synthesis and repair. Recognized for its rapid absorption, it quickly delivers amino acids to muscles.

Whey protein supplements are popular supplements among athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts seeking convenient and efficient protein intake. Additionally, whey protein is commonly used in shakes, smoothies, and various food products for its nutritional profile.

What’s The Difference Between Whey Protein Concentrate and Whey Protein Isolate?

The primary distinction between whey protein concentrate (WPC) and whey protein isolate (WPI) lies in their protein content and processing methods. Whey protein concentrate contains a lower percentage of protein (typically around 70-80%), with the remaining portion composed of fats and carbohydrates. On the other hand, whey protein isolate undergoes additional processing to remove a higher percentage of fats and carbohydrates, resulting in a protein content of around 90% or higher.

Due to the extra processing, whey protein isolate is often considered purer and may be suitable for those with lactose intolerance, as most of the lactose is removed. However, whey protein concentrate retains more of the beneficial components found in whole whey, such as immune-boosting factors and other nutrients. The choice between the two depends on individual dietary preferences, tolerance, and specific fitness or nutritional goals.

Does Whey Protein Cause Hair Loss?

Hair loss is a complex issue influenced by various factors such as genetics, hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies, and overall health. Protein is crucial for hair health, and whey protein, being a complete and high-quality protein, can contribute to a balanced diet that supports hair growth.

One study suggests that whey isolate may accelerate hair loss in those people who are already experiencing hair loss (1).
It appears that individuals who did not have hair loss before using supplements are unlikely to start losing hair afterward. While whey protein isolate is a concentrated, high-quality protein known for its purity, some suggest it might be associated with hair loss.

The crucial link between hair loss and whey protein is the impact on testosterone levels. Whey protein, especially the isolate with elevated amino acids like branched-chain amino acids, may lead to an increase in testosterone levels. While this increase may not be exceptionally high, it could be significant enough to expedite hair loss in individuals already prone to it due to naturally high testosterone levels. Those with lower testosterone levels might not face significant issues with the slight increase associated with whey protein consumption (2).

What You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Hair Loss?

Experiencing hair loss can be distressing, and addressing it involves a multifaceted approach. Here are detailed steps you can take:

• Consult a Healthcare Professional

Start by seeking advice from a dermatologist or a healthcare provider specializing in hair loss. They can help identify the underlying causes through examinations, medical history analysis, and, if necessary, blood tests.

• Identify the Cause

Determine the cause of your hair loss. It could be genetic (androgenetic alopecia), hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies, stress, medical conditions, or certain medications.

• Maintain a Healthy Diet

Ensure your diet includes a variety of nutrients essential for hair health, such as proteins, iron, zinc, vitamins (especially B vitamins), and omega-3 fatty acids. Consider consulting a registered dietitian for personalized advice.

• Manage Stress

Chronic stress can contribute to hair loss. Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies.

• Scalp Care

Keep your scalp clean and healthy. Use a mild, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. Avoid excessive heat styling, tight hairstyles, and harsh chemical treatments.

• Medical Treatments

Depending on the cause, your healthcare provider might recommend medications such as minoxidil or finasteride. These drugs can help slow down or reverse hair loss.

• Topical Treatments

Some individuals find success with topical treatments like hair growth shampoos, conditioners, or serums containing ingredients like ketoconazole, biotin, or caffeine.

• Lifestyle Changes

Adopt a healthy lifestyle by getting regular exercise, adequate sleep, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

• Hair Care Practices:

Be gentle with your hair. Avoid tight hairstyles, excessive brushing, and harsh chemical treatments. Use a wide-toothed comb when detangling wet hair.

Will Lost Hair Grow Back?

Given that whey protein does not appear to be a direct cause of hair loss, discontinuing its consumption is unlikely to lead to hair regrowth. Hair loss is influenced by various factors, and the impact of whey remains speculative. To err on the side of caution, consulting with a professional for personalized advice and potential treatments is advisable. Depending on the chosen treatment, it may mitigate hair loss and, in some cases, result in limited regrowth.

Consideration of alternatives, such as switching from whey protein isolate to whey protein concentrate, might be explored, as it could potentially slow the rate of hair loss.

Conclusion

Genes are much more likely to have an impact on the amount of hair loss when compared to current diet, hair washing habits, and nutrient intake. Hereditary baldness/alopecia is related to defects in the immune system, not whey protein! Correction in protein needs to be considered with the help of a professional.

A combination of biotin, selenium, iron, complete amino acids profile especially isolates, and vitamin D would help to a greater extent in reducing hair damage. Avoiding hair treatments such as hair color, blow drying, keratin treatment, and sulfur-containing shampoos can bring about positive results if excluded.

FAQs

1. Does whey protein isolate have side effects?

Whey protein isolate is generally well-tolerated, but some may experience digestive issues like bloating or gas. Individuals with lactose intolerance may also be sensitive.

2. Is it safe to take whey protein isolate every day?

Yes, for most people, it is safe to consume whey protein isolate daily. However, individuals with lactose intolerance or allergies should exercise caution, and consulting a healthcare professional is advisable.

3. Does losing protein cause hair loss?

A lack of protein can contribute to hair loss, as hair is primarily composed of a protein called keratin. Ensuring an adequate protein intake is important for maintaining hair health.

4. Who should not take whey isolate?

Individuals with lactose intolerance or allergies to milk proteins should avoid whey isolate. Additionally, those with kidney issues or a history of kidney problems should consult a healthcare professional before use.

5. Is 100% whey isolate good for you?

Yes, 100% whey isolate is a high-quality protein source, low in fats and carbohydrates. It is easily absorbed, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a pure and efficient protein supplement.

Geeta Bhatia Thorat
Geeta Bhatia Thorat
Nutrition and diet

Geeta is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to right kind of diet. She has an extensive knowledge about food science which reflects in her blogs. She believes in providing most authenticated inf... Read More

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