Thinning hair is a problem for 85 percent of men by the age of 50, according to the American Hair Loss Association. Hair loss can affect both men and wome. Pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia is the most common type of baldness, and according to the Mayo Clinic affects roughly one-third of both men and women. Baldness has numerous causes. Caffeine has a surprising relationship to this condition.
Androgenetic alopecia is a permanent condition that occurs over a period of time. It is an inherited trait and may begin as early as age 21. A receding hairline and complete hair loss on top of the head are typical in men; women tend to lose hair all over the scalp. Many other things can cause baldness: hairstyles such as cornrows, hormonal changes related to pregnancy, thyroid problems, some medications, fungal infections of the scalp or an underlying disease such as lupus or diabetes.
Diet and Baldness
Some aspects of diet are related to hair loss, but not actual baldness. Zinc and iron deficiency, severe restrictions of protein, fatty acids and calories of the sort seen in starvation and vitamin D deficiency can all cause hair loss. Caffeine, the bitter substance normally present in tea, coffee, chocolate and kola nuts, has not been implicated as a cause of baldness. In fact, there is evidence that caffeine can actually help stop the process that causes baldness.
Baldness and DHT
Baldness seems to begin with hair follicles that are genetically sensitive to dihydrotestosterone or DHT, a by-product of testosterone. When these hair follicles are exposed to DHT for a long period of time, they begin to shrink and eventually stop producing hair. A study reported in the January 2007 "International Journal of Dermatology" found that when caffeine was added to a medium in which hair follicles taken from men with androgenetic alopecia were growing, the caffeine stimulated hair growth.
The Bottom Line
Baldness can be a distressing condition, but there is no evidence that caffeine causes baldness, and it may actually help this condition. A few medical treatments are available to help androgenetic alopecia; cosmetic solutions, such as wigs, are another option. If you have questions or concerns, consult a health care professional.
- American Hair Loss Association; Men’s Hair Loss: Causes of Hair Loss; Paul J. McAndrews, MD
- Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine; Diffuse Hair Loss: Its Triggers And Management; S. Harrison, MBBS and W. Bergfeld, MD
- American Hair Loss Association; Women’s Hair Loss; Causes of Hair Loss; Paul J. McAndrews, MD
- MedlinePlus; Caffeine In The Diet David C. Dugdale, III, MD and David Zieve, MD, MHA