Excess Weight and Alopecia | 02/02/11

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Fat-Related Inflammation Might Weaken Hair Follicles

Miss Nebraska took the crown in last month's Miss America contest -- but Miss Delaware won a special place in our hearts. Kayla Martell began losing her hair at age 13 due to alopecia, and despite wearing a wig for the pageant, the 22-year-old bald beauty queen is using her platform to educate the public in hopes of helping others who suffer from the same condition.

Heredity and hormones are among the factors traditionally linked to hair loss, but more recently scientists have begun to investigate inflammation of the hair follicles as a factor. Over time, out-of-control inflammation can come to damage otherwise healthy tissues (be they the heart or the head). Inflammation is aggravated by things that put the body out of balance -- including obesity, stress and smoking. Could these risk factors then be linked to increased risk of hair loss?

Finnish researchers decided to investigate this question by comparing body measurements with rates of alopecia among 4,066 men under the age of 35. They found that those suffering from moderate to severe alopecia were nearly 4% heavier and had waists nearly 3% larger than those men with full heads of hair. In particular, the hairless men had inflammation levels about 4% higher (as measured by CRP) than their more hirsute peers.

What to do if your CRP levels are high (greater than 2.2 mg/L)? Canadian researchers found that those who ate a diet high in vegetables, fruit, soy foods and nuts for one month lowered their CRP levels by an average of 28%. Also get active: One study found that those who exercised four or more times a week had CRP levels that were 35% lower than those who exercised less than once a week. A plant-based diet plus plenty of activity will also help guard against the many other obesity-related ailments, ranging from earaches, to acid reflux, to dental disease and early dementia.


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