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Can whey cause hair loss I Dermatologist reveal the truth


Can whey cause hair loss I Dermatologist reveal the truth

Doctor, Can Whey protein cause hair loss?

Recently fitness has become a rule rather than an exception. While this has immense benefits, the downside is an increased intake of supplements ranging from whey protein, creatine, energy drinks, branched-chain amino acids, testosterone analogues, anabolic steroids, and so on. 

These health drinks were taken by athletes earlier, but now it has reached the general public. While whey protein is the safest, it is associated with hair loss and acne.

What is whey protein?

Whey protein is a by-product of Milk. Cow milk contains 87% water, 3% lipids, 3.5% protein, 5% lactose, and 1% vitamins (B2, B12, A, D) and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc and selenium). (1) Milk protein consists of 80% of casein and 20% of whey. It takes 5 litres of Milk to produce 1 gram of whey protein powder. (2)

Can whey protein cause hair loss?

Whey protein has a high content of branched-chain amino acids (leucines, isoleucines, valines), which activate various pathways associated with insulin resistance [3].  Whey protein or Milk can negatively impact patients with PCOD, Diabetes, or insulin resistance. If you have these health issues, Yoghurt is a better alternative because it can provide all the benefits of Milk without altering your hormones.

But can whey protein cause hair loss? Before digging deep into this, it is essential to understand the kind of hair loss you have. If you have hair loss because of nutritional deficiency, protein intake can help regrow hair. For more details, please read our article, Diet for good skin and hair.

The story is different if you have male or female pattern hair loss, as discussed in the next section.

Can whey protein cause hair loss in females?

If your hair loss is because of hormonal imbalance, then we can’t deny the role of whey protein altogether. Let us understand why?

Some studies show that a diet low in dairy can positively impact your health. For example, eight weeks of a low starch/low dairy diet in 24 obese women resulted in weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity and reduced testosterone in women with PCOS.(4)

A review article recommended females with PCOD should consume the following in their diet(5):

-fruits and vegetables with low starch such as artichokes, asparagus, bean sprouts, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, peppers, salad greens, spinach, tomato, turnips, zucchini, melons, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and lemons, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, and pears

-low in glycemic index carbohydrates

-low-fat dairy in small quantities

-fish rich in Ù3 fatty acids

-lean red meat and poultry, e.g., chicken, turkey in small quantities

-fatty acids from olive oil-olives, vegetable oils, fish oils

-almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds)


-whole grain products

-alcohol in moderate amounts (150 mL of red wine).

Can whey protein cause hair loss in males?

Few experts believe that brain chain amino acids in whey protein increase the level of testosterone, which in turn, would increase the level of Dihydrotestosterone. An increase in DHT hormone leads to the miniaturisation of the hair follicle in male pattern baldness. (6)

However, studies show that 0.8 gm per kg body weight of whey protein isolate given for one day significantly elevated levels of branched-chain amino acids but had no effect on glucose, insulin, testosterone, cortisol, or growth hormone (9). 

Another study showed that 12 weeks of soya isolate, whey protein or Soya and whey blend did not alter testosterone levels. (10) However, the estradiol level decreased, and the Testosterone/Estradiol ratio increased across all groups.

We can’t negate the effect of whey protein on your hormones altogether. Moreover, studies have yet to study the effects of taking whey protein for years. 

If you have male pattern hair loss, consider shifting to pea protein-based protein(not soya-based protein) supplements.

Is whey protein concentrate better than whey protein isolate?

Shifting to plant-based protein becomes all the more important if your hair loss is progressive or is not responding to Minoxidil, Finasteride or PRP sessions.

Whey concentrate is less processed than whey isolate. Therefore, Whey isolate has 90% protein content, and Whey concentrate has 80% protein content. The content of branched-chain amino acids might be slightly higher in whey isolate. However, we could not find any numbers or studies to support it (10). 

Ashwagandha increases testosterone levels.

While researching about effect of whey protein on testosterone, we came across an article that studies the impact of herbs on testosterone levels (11). Interestingly, Ashwagandha can increase sexual well-being and the level of testosterone. In 8 weeks study, 300 mg of Ashwagandha twice daily increases testosterone by around 15 % (12).


To conclude, no studies directly prove the negative impact of whey protein in patients with hair loss. However, altering a single hormone can alter the delicate balance of other hormones in your body.

Studies show that Whey protein can alter the level of insulin and estradiol in your body. Long-term intake of whey supplements for months or years together still needs to be studied. 

Consider shifting to pea protein-based supplements if severe male or female pattern hair loss does not respond to medicines. 

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