Diet Drinks Linked to Hair Loss

September 2, 2014 Updated: September 4, 2014

A follower of my work recently contacted me through Facebook for help with her unexpected hair loss. I’d like to share her story because I suspect there are many other people experiencing the same problem.  Maria wrote: “I recently lost a lot of weight I had gained over the years. Since November 12th I lost over 150 pounds. I lost also some of my hair… I am just wondering what I can do or take to get my hair thickness back. Your input would be greatly appreciated.”

I had a hunch that Maria’s weight loss was linked to the diet products she used. So, I asked Maria “Can you give me an idea of what your day-to-day diet looks like?” Maria shared that she is using a popular diet program that consisted of 4 shakes a day totaling 1200 calories plus diet soda and no solid food of any kind. After taking a look at the ingredients in her shakes, here’s what I concluded: “I suspect it’s the aspartame. Four shakes a day would mean you’re getting between 244 to 284 mg of aspartame daily, not counting the diet soda, which is an extremely large amount. In a US Food and Drug Administration-based compilation of self-reported side-effects, the artificial sweetener has been linked to many health problems including hair loss.” Incidentally, a quick Internet search reveals many people also report hair loss while using products with aspartame. While the research specifically studying hair loss is limited, The Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals Followup Study linked aspartame consumption to other health issues, including lymphoma and multiple myeloma in men. The National Institute of Environmental Health Science published a study which found an increased cancer risk even with low doses of aspartame.

Aspartame is found in many “diet” products and Maria isn’t the first person to tell me that she’s lost hair while using products containing the synthetic sweetener.  If you’re drinking diet shakes, diet soda, or eating other products containing aspartame, here are a few things you need to know to help you decide whether aspartame-laden diet products are for you:

-During my research for my book 60 Seconds to Slim, I found that the National Institutes of Health had cataloged 167 adverse effects linked to aspartame use. Lynne Melcombe lists these effects in her book Health Hazards of White Sugar, including: anxiety attacks, appetite problems such as binge eating, birth defects, vision problems such as blurred vision, brain tumors, chest pain, depression, dizziness and vertigo, edema, epilepsy and seizures, fatigue, headaches and migraines, hearing loss and tinnitus, heart palpitations, hyperactivity, insomnia, joint pain, memory loss, PMS, psychiatric disorders, reproductive problems, and uterine tumors.

-According to Randall Fitzgerald, author of The Hundred-year Lie, some of the cancers linked to aspartame include brain, liver, lung, kidney, and lymphoreticular cancer.

-According to the authors of the book Hard to Swallow, when a diet drink containing aspartame is stored at 85 degrees Fahrenheit for a week or longer, “There is no aspartame left in the soft drinks, just the components it breaks down into, like formaldehyde, formic acid, and diketopiperazine, a chemical which can cause brain tumors. All of these substances are known to be toxic to humans.”

While Maria lost weight on the diet shakes containing aspartame, it was more likely due to the extreme caloric restriction. Maria agreed that no diet should contain an ingredient that causes hair loss and that has been linked to so many other problems. If you’re suffering from hair loss due to diet shakes, soda, or foods, you may want to reconsider your options. The best way to lose weight is to eat a healthy diet with real food and devoid of synthetic ingredients, while increasing your activity levels.

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*Image of “hair loss” via Shutterstock