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Does Whey Protein Cause Hair Loss?
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on June 16, 2022

Hair loss is widespread worldwide among men and women. Approximately 80% of men and 50% of women around the world will experience hair loss in their lifetimes [1]. With the issue affecting a significant proportion of the population, it is easy to understand why so many people are seeking a solution to their hair loss [2].

Many enthusiastic gym goers often wonder whether whey protein can cause hair loss — as well as other supplements they take, such as creatine.

As we get asked questions like this frequently we decided to have a brief look at the research. 

What Is Whey Protein?

Whey protein is one of the most widely available protein supplements. Many people use whey protein in their protein shakes to help them build muscle mass and lose weight. 

Whey protein is isolated from cow’s milk. It is available naturally in many dairy products as well as supplement form. There are many health benefits [3] to consuming whey protein, including muscle growth and muscle retention in older adults. It is also quickly digested and absorbed by the body, which means the muscles can use it immediately.

It is often said to be the best kind of protein supplement available. This is because it contains all of the nine essential amino acids you need.However, like many supplements, it has side effects, some of which may be deemed negative.

What Is The Difference Between Whey Protein Concentrate and Whey Protein Isolate?

There are two common forms of whey protein powder: whey protein concentrate (WPC) and whey protein isolate (WPI). They have some differences between them.

The concentrated form has a higher carbohydrate and fat level than the isolated form. However, WPI has a higher protein content. Whey protein isolate is made by reducing the fat and carbohydrate content of the concentrated form.

Does Whey Protein Cause Hair Loss?

Some scientific evidence suggests that the isolated form of whey protein may accelerate hair loss in those already experiencing it. A study by Dr Larry Shapiro discovered that whey protein isolate could aggravate hair loss [5]. However, other studies also found that whey protein concentrate aided hair health and regrowth [6].

It does seem that those who weren’t experiencing hair loss before using supplements won’t begin to lose their hair after. A whey protein isolate is a concentrated protein which bears high quality and purity, but it also may cause hair loss [7].

The key factor and association between hair loss and whey protein is the level of testosterone. Whey protein (especially the isolate with an increased level of amino acids, particularly branched amino acids) can contribute to the rise of testosterone level. This rise is probably not particularly high, but it may be substantial enough to accelerate hair loss in those people who already experience hair loss linked to their normally high level of testosterone. In those who have a relatively low testosterone level, its slight increase won’t cause much trouble.

It is important to note that the cause of hair loss can be related to something else. For instance, smoking can negatively affect hair health and double the chance of experiencing hair loss and connections have been made with a lack of sleep and stress.

What You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Hair Loss

If you are experiencing hair loss after consuming whey protein, you should consult with a professional. It is unlikely that you will see hair loss from consuming whey protein if you have had no previous hair loss problems. However, you might see an accelerated amount of hair loss if you were already predisposed to it.

You should consider halting your intake if you take whey protein isolate and increase your consumption of whey protein concentrate. You can also make sure you are getting your daily allowance of protein from food sources and not relying on supplements as your primary source.

It is also important to remember that there may be other factors causing your hair loss. Alopecia areata, for example, is often mainly associated with issues in the immune system. Sometimes testosterone levels correlate with hair loss too.

A consultant with a trichologist will be able to give you information on your hair loss and advice on the options you have. Many hair loss medications such as Minoxidil, Finasteride, Dutasteride have shown great results combating baldnes and there are always surgical options in FUE or FUT hair transplants. In fact, most patients have preventative hair loss treatment before having a hair transplant for optimal results. 

If exercise is important to you, you will also be advised when you can return to exercise if you have gone down the hair transplant route.

Will Lost Hair Grow Back?

Since whey protein doesn’t seem to cause hair loss, it is doubtful that stopping its consumption will help regrow your hair. Multiple factors may impact your hair loss. Therefore, you can only speculate about the impact of whey. 

However, to play it safe, it is also advisable to speak to a professional and seek treatment. Depending on the treatment taken, it may slow hair loss, and you may see a little regrowth. However, there is no guarantee.

You may require treatment for your hair loss. Medical intervention may slow the hair loss down whilst a hair transplant will give you a thicker head of hair once more. You might consider switching from whey protein isolate to whey protein concentrate as this may slow the rate of hair loss.

Conclusion

It is unlikely that protein supplementation will cause hair loss if you haven’t experienced hair loss before taking it. This supplement could be very beneficial to you. 

However, if you already suffer from male pattern baldness or another hair loss condition, you may want to reconsider your intake. An alternative protein may be just as good for you – a health professional will be able to advise you more on this matter.

Sources:

  1. https://nyulangone.org/news/most-men-experience-hair-loss-it-isnt-inevitable
  2.  https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/treatment/diagnosis-treat 
  3.  http://www.cohensw.com/pub/pca/Emerging_Health_Properties_of_Whey_Proteins_and_Their_Clinical_Implications
    _JAmCollNutr_2007.pdf
  4. Low Anabolic Profile in Assessing a Patient’s Overall Hair Loss
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7126817/
  6. https://www.hairday.co.uk/does-whey-cause-hair-loss/
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Michael May (FRCS)Updated on June 16, 2022
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Michael May (FRCS)
Updated on June 16, 2022

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