For centuries, men have suspected there was something unnatural about losing one’s hair. In the 19th century, doctors started calling it a “disease of civilization,” blaming the rising rates of baldness on such phenomena as hat-wearing. Eventually, this theory was disproved by the discovery of genes linked to hair loss. Everything seemed settled, but new research has scientists rethinking the link between modern life and men’s hairlines and focusing on a new culprit: food.
Scientists in countries where the American diet—lots of sugar, refined carbs, and refined vegetable oils—is becoming a new cultural norm were eager to see if hair loss is influenced by what we eat. Since 2009, three major studies—in Mexico, Taiwan, and Turkey—reached the same conclusion that a groundbreaking 2000 Finnish study did: that men with insulin resistance, a condition that leads to diabetes and obesity and is linked to heart disease, were much more likely to be bald.
The most common cause of insulin resistance? A diet laden with sugar and refined carbohydrates. Now that all the dots are there, scientists are trying to connect them by demonstrating that what you consume—carbs in particular—causes chrome-dome syndrome.
According to David Kingsley, a Ph.D. and world-renowned hair-loss expert, “The consensus is that diet influences hair loss.” Which raises the question: If you’re balding, can eating well reverse the process?
Not exactly. But while a low-carbohydrate diet rich in dairy, fish, and naturally raised meat won’t make hair return once it has left the building, there’s reason to believe it can slow down the great hair recession. That’s what zero-carb eating did for Karsten Anderson, an Arctic explorer who took part in an experiment called the Bellevue Study in 1928.
Anderson and another researcher locked themselves in a New York hospital and ate nothing but meat for a year. As his colleague, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, later wrote, Anderson, who was balding at the start of the experiment, “did not regain his hair, but he reported that there had been a marked decrease in the shedding.”