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Healthy diet to prevent thinning hair – a Japanese perspective

Japanese seem like they keep their hair for longer than a lot of other nationalities, but thinning hair is still something that a lot of people here worry about, men and also women, especially when Japanese hit their 30s and 40s.

From a woman’s perspective, having a nice hairstyle, and the thick, good quality hair which that requires, is rightly or wrongly a significant part of self-esteem, and impacts how we feel throughout the day, every time we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a mirror. So being dissatisfied with thinning hair, hair volume, is very common here, just like I imagine it is everywhere else.

In Japan, the quality of diet is thought to impact hair quality quite a lot. Japanese eating habits, while healthy compared to other places in the world, still leave scope for falling into bad habits, that we often don’t consciously recognize, and if we don’t realize something, we obviously can’t correct it.

Shampoos and hair-growth agents can help, but I think they can only be part of the story. While it is important to pay attention to scalp care, we also need to consider the nutrition of our bodies and hair from the inside, and make sure we keep not only our hair healthy, but also ourselves generally, as hair often an indicator of poor health and/or poor diet.

So I want to summarize what kind of diet is thought to be effective for hair quality, at least here in Japan.

What foods affect hair growth?

- Sugar

- Greasy food

- Alcohol

Are the ones often mentioned here.


1. Sugar

It’s easy to think of sugar as just something you consume when eating sweets, but sugar is also found in the rice, noodles and bread that we usually eat. These days diets that restrict sugar intake are popular, but as with everything else, balance with sugar intake is key.

- It’s not good to limit sugar too much!

The sugar contained in food is not only junk, but an important energy source for our bodies. Limiting sugar too much or too quickly on crash diets leads to a sudden limitation of that important energy source. Then, the body’s natural defense instinct kicks in and tries to prioritize energy for vital organs like the heart and brain. As a result, nutrients to the hair are limited, hurting hair growth and hair quality.

It’s often said that dieting leads to hair loss, because of the lack of nutrition to hair from sudden and extreme dietary restrictions.

- But consuming too much sugar is also not good for your hair.

When our diet includes too much sugar, our blood sugar level increases, hurting blood flow and circulation, which naturally affects hair growth as well as almost every part of body health.

Excessive sugar also leads to an accumulation of body fat, which in turn leads to process known as glycation, adversely affecting not only hair health but also susceptibility to disease and aging.

It’s frustrating, too little sugar is bad, and too much sugar is bad! More important than sudden attempts to lose weight is a long-term change to eating habits, to bring them into balance. This might not bring the quick fixes that a lot of people are looking for, but the end result will still be weight loss, even if it takes a bit longer, as well as healthier hair and much else!

And if you notice your hair loss increasing or hair volume decreasing while dieting or gaining weight, it’s important to notice the change and realize that your body might be telling you something.


2. Greasy Food

Meat is the most fatty type of regular food, but in the modern world it is not only meat but also snacks and processed foods that contain large amounts of fat.

Too much fatty food results in excess sebum (or grease) being secreted, which will adversely affect hair growth. Our hormone balance can also change, affecting hair and much else. In Japan, due to a westernization of eating habits, increased meat consumption and more snacking, fat and grease are a bigger problem than they were 50 years ago, although still less than in many other countries.


 3. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol, which is very popular in Japan, is not necessarily all bad! Alcohol in moderation is thought to improve blood circulation, which is actually good for hair.

But alcohol consumption that exceeds a proper amount is of course not good for your body or hair. While breaking down alcohol, a substance called acetaldehyde is created, which is toxic and suggested as a cause of hangovers. In order to decompose acetaldehyde, a lot of energy is required, increasing the daily burden on your body, and reducing nutrition available for your hair.

Also, drinking a lot tends to encourage people to eat greasy foods and foods high in sugar, leading to a bad overall lifestyle that will affect your hair.


Since hair has a very long growth cycle measured in years, especially for women, thin and thinning hair is unfortunately not something that can be improved on a whim. An analogy I heard is steering a large ship. It takes time to change the direction of a huge ship like a supertanker. You have to think ahead and make and keep changes well before expecting a result.

So even if you change your eating habits, it’s not realistic to expect a sudden change in the condition of your hair. Conversely, unless you’re sick, you also don’t suddenly lose your hair in one day. It happens gradually, until you notice it and say, “what happened?”

The best thing, at least what we tend to think in Japan, is to develop healthy eating habits that are balanced, not swinging too much in one direction or another direction, and to keep those habits over time, when we slowly but surely see our hair quality and our health in general improve. Fad diets are not nearly as popular in Japan as in the West, but people here have much lower obesity rates, and one of the longest lifespans in the world.

Thank you for reading this far, and if you liked this post, please check out my other blog posts. If you have a moment, please browse the Food and Drink section of the online marketplace where I work, Allegro Japan, where we have a large collection of healthy Japanese foods and drinks. Thank you!

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