The Low Carb Luxury Newsletter: 
Volume III / Number 06: April 3, 2002: Page 7
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      Answering Mail
Solving the Mystery of Hair Loss

Last year we addressed the question of hair-loss in those starting a low-carb (or other) diet. In the past few weeks we've received many new inquiries about this unwelcome phenomenon and decided to once again share our answer with you.


I have been eating low carb for about 3 months. For the last month or so, I have been noticing extreme hair loss. Have you ever heard of hair loss being associated with a low-carb lifestyle? I am really getting quite worried because I can't figure out what's causing this.

Thank you,


Hair Combing Dear Donna,

What you describe is called "Telogen Effluvium". The good news is, it's normal in about 10-15% of dieters. The better news is, it's temporary.

Telogen effluvium is when a stress (such as dieting/weight change) causes noticeable shedding of hair after the stressful event. The hair loss is always delayed, usually 34 months after the "stressful event".

The event can be a physical stress such as an illness (especially with a fever), sudden weight changes (the most common), or a major surgical procedure. Sudden severe emotional stress can also trigger telogen effluvium, including the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a job termination.

It's all about something called "Transition to Resting Phase". In telogen effluvium, the stressful event causes a high proportion of hair follicles to halt their growth phase prematurely, and to begin a transition to the resting phase at the same time. 34 months after the stressful event, a high proportion of follicles shed their hairs all at about the same time, as they prepare for a new cycle of growth.

The confusion comes in here — What triggers the hair loss begins 34 months before the loss of the hair actually occurs. Usually, the person losing hair has recovered from the event (or stabilized from the weight change or dietary change), and then they start shedding their hair in clumps! The condition is almost always temporary, and new hairs soon grow back in. Within a few more months the normal random cycle of hair follicle growth and rest resumes.

Usually telogen effluvium results in random hair loss from all over the scalp. Often the effect is not noticeable to others, although seeing the increased quantities of shed hairs is disturbing to their owner. Treatment for telogen effluvium includes waiting for the new hairs to grow in, and styling to give a fuller look in the meantime.

Rest assured this phenomenon is not restricted to low-carbing, and in fact because our diet is high in protein, we often recover more quickly. Make sure your diet is TRULY TOTALLY sugar free. Sugar greatly exacerbates the condition. It also helps to do the following:
  • Up your protein by 15% each day over whatever levels you've been eating.
  • Make SURE you are taking in at least 1500 calories per day.
  • Drink LOTS of water. 64 ounces is a minimum per day.
  • Take your supplements! At a minimum, you should be taking:
    • A good multivitamin with NO iron
    • CoEnzyme Q10 75-150 mg per day.
    • Acetyl L-Carnitine 1000 mg per day
    • A good Essential Fatty Acids supplement if you don't
      eat some form of salmon, tuna, or olive oil every day.
Hair Combing Hope all of this is of some help, Donna. I know it feels scary, but it's not as abnormal as it may seem. I've seen people go off their diets because of it and then attest that after going off and eating "normally" their hair came back. Of course it would have come back anyway, but because these cycles are delayed, they draw the wrong conclusion. You'll find posts all over the web about how this or that diet caused their hair to fall out so the diet is DANGEROUS. They scare a lot of people with misinformation. I appreciate that you took the time to come to me and ask.


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