Hair loss: Experimental drug reverses hair loss attributed to Western diet

Dr Malhotra explains the truth behind saturated fats

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Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the research team have successfully used a drug to reverse hair loss, hair whitening and skin inflammation. Here are the details. The investigators stated the drug halts the production of glycosphingolipids (GSLs) – fats that are a major component of skin and other cell membranes. The man-made compound that disrupts GSLs is called D-threo-1-phenyl-2-decanoylamino-3-morpholino-1-propanol (D-PDMP).

Current research shows that mice fed a high-fat diet are more likely to have hair discolouration (from black to grey, to white), extensive hair loss and inflammation of the skin.

For this specific experiment, the researchers genetically modified a group of mice to have atherosclerosis.

Atheroscleorosis is the disease people develop when their arteries become clogged with fatty deposits – caused by a high-fat diet and inactivity.

The mice were then fed a Western diet, high in fat and cholesterol, or standard food.

All mice were fed their assigned diets from 12 weeks of age to 20 weeks.

Compared to the mice that ate chow, the mice who enjoyed a Western diet lost hair, formed skin lesions and suffered from hair whitening.

This results became more severe when the mice continued eating a Western diet for 36 weeks.

From 20 to 36 weeks of age, both groups were given varying amounts of D-PDMP in capsule or liquid form.

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The mice on a Western diet, who were given up to 10mg of D-PDMP, regained hair and hair colour.

Looking under a microscope, the scientists found that mice eating the Western diet experienced an infiltration of neutrophils – a type of white blood cell.

The prevalence of neutrophils suggest inflammation, yet the D-PDMP treated mice (on a Western diet) showed a significantly reduced number of neutrophils.

Professor Subroto Chatterjee said: “Our findings show that a Western diet causes hair loss, hair whitening and skin inflammation in mice.

“We believe a similar process occurs in men who lose hair and experience hair whitening when they eat a diet high in fat and cholesterol.”

However, it must be noted that research results in mice doesn’t mean the same effect would be observed in people.

There is currently no evidence at this time that D-PDMP would be safe for human consumption.

Professor Chatterjee said “further research is needed”, but the study does show “promise” that hair loss studies are advancing.

As a Western high-fat diet has been linked to hair loss, which foods would you be better off avoiding?

The NHS stated saturated fats mostly come from meat and dairy products, as well as palm and coconut oil.

Examples of foods high in saturated fats include:

  • Sausages
  • Pies
  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Lard
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cream
  • Soured cream
  • Ice cream
  • Cheese crackers
  • Chocolate confectionery
  • Biscuits
  • Cakes
  • Pastries

“Too much fat in your diet, especially saturated fats, can raise your cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease,” said the NHS.

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