If you drink green tea, you are suffering from hair loss or thinning hair, chances are high that you’re already aware of the current debate whether green tea is healthy for your hair or not. It all started when a study was published which showed that green tea might increase testosterone and more important DHT which is known to damage hair follicles in some people, especially if you’re prone to male baldness pattern (according to the American Medical Association)
If you search for an appropriate answer for the question in the title, you’ll find almost everything on Google. There are people that claim they started loosing hair after their first sip of green tea and others are mega dosing green tea supplements without any side effects. This article tries to clear things up and help you decide whether you want to continue drinking green tea.
What the FDA says about Green Tea
It’s hard to imagine something that’s packed with so many good properties having any negative effects on your body. With many documented testimonials vouching for its antioxidants, which battle free radicals and help fight cancer, green tea is a staple in many diets. The FDA, however, has not ruled in its effect on hair, whether it causes loss or helps it grow.
If the FDA were to do studies on the claims for the benefits of drinking green tea, we would have a better means of determining good and bad results in many more areas than hair growth. Instead, the conclusion hinges on the number of studies made on the subject, which is few. So far, the FDA isn’t playing any role in the findings.
What do the studies say?
If you want to find out as much as you can regarding the effects of green tea on your hair, you have to search for findings, testimonials and stories from people who asked the same questions as well as those who want to share their experiences. Yes, there are studies out there, but they’re limited in scope as well as answers. Some have contradicting results.
Tannins come from astringent, bitter plants and are found in large amounts in green tea. They are antioxidants (which is a good thing), but they also slow down the body’s iron absorption, wich a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition first showed in 2001. The green tea and iron study is not unique. Several other studies report similar findings.
Does that mean, that drinking green tea regularly makes you vulnerable to iron deficiency?
Surprisingly, the answer is no. Here comes the twist: studies suggest that drinking tea for an extended period of time does not reduce iron absorption either in rats or humans.
Scientists found that by drinking green tea regularly, your saliva has more proline-rich proteins, which combines the tannins, preventing them from absorbing iron.
This means if you’re drinking an occasional cup of green tea chances are that it will temporarily lower your ability to absorb iron which is important for your hair. If you drink green tea regularly that should not be a problem.
Here’s an extra tip if you still want to enjoy an occasional cup of green tea: add a little bit of lemon to your tea. Lemon helps you to absorb more iron and will balance out the effects that the tannins might have on your hair.
The DHT Factor
The scientific community has long thought that green tea inhibits the cells that convert testosterone to DHT, reducing or perhaps curing male pattern baldness. Unfortunately, doctors have now split their opinions.
It was this study that started the controversy: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/2/516.full#SEC2.It showed that green tea increased both testosterone and DHT in rats. But there are a few flaws in this study:
- It was done on rats and the sample size was very small
- The increase measured is not statistically significant
- The study does not tell whether or not the increases in testosterone and DHT were only bioactive hormone or bioactive and bound hormone. If it’s the later, then there is nothing to worry about.
- Green tea is all the rats were given to drink, which means that increased levels of SHBG could have been seen with a subsequent spike in hormone levels as the body tried to compensate for the increased binding
So overall this study is to be enjoyed with caution. If it were so easy to increase testosterone, bodybuilders would be using green tea instead of steroids. And obviously, they don’t do that.
There was a study that showed the effects of polyphenol catechins found in green tea on hair loss: rats that have developed spontaneous hair loss and were fed with polyphenol extract over the course of six months have actually been able to regrow some hairs.
This study is by no means significant, but it makes another point against the relation between green tea and hair loss.
So if you look at the studies don’t (the ones above are just some examples) there is no clear evidence that green tea leads to hair loss. Some of them might suggest that there might be a correlation but they are usually not very meaningful. So far there is no clear evidence.
Until there is, use your own sanity. If you like green tea and you’ve been drinking it forever without any negative side effects, please continue to do so.
If you start drinking green tea and all of a sudden your hair start falling off (even though the chances are low) – just stop drinking it.
Also think about this: green tea has been around for a very long time and if it would be really that bad for your hair, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is today. People from the east – where green tea originates – doesn’t suffer from hair loss any more than westerners do.