A health expert has slammed reports that vegan men could lose their hair faster than meat-eaters because they consume less iron.
In an article published today by The Express titled Vegan diet warning: Ditching meat could lead to EARLY hair loss in men, GP Dr Hilary Jones said: "There are lots of factors causing hair loss in men.
"It could be genetic, due to skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, a thyroid issue, but also because of nutritional deficiencies."
He added: "Iron deficiency is a factor in hair loss since it’s necessary for hair growth.
"With a lot of people shunning meat - possibly due to vegan and vegetarian diets - it is possible people are missing out on the nutrient.
"It is possible to consume enough iron on such diets, but it’s more difficult and easy to not get enough."
But Viva! Health Nutritionist Veronika Powell has slammed these claims, saying: "This person is certainly no nutrition expert, because those claims just don’t add up and are certainly not fact-based.
"One of the largest studies of vegetarians and vegans, The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition [EPIC] Oxford study, follows the health, diets, and lifestyle of thousands of participants over decades.
"In the results published in 2003, comparing over 33,000 meat-eaters, 18,000 vegetarians and 2,500 vegans, vegans had the highest intake of iron, followed by vegetarians with meat-eaters coming last.
"And the results from the next phase of the study published last year showed again that vegans had the highest intake of ironamong all diet groups."
Meat and iron intake
According to Powell, The American Dietetic Association states that iron deficiency is no more common among vegetarians than meat-eaters (Craig and Mangels, 2009).
She says: "The truth is, meat is not the main source of iron in a meat-eater’s diet so not eating meat doesn’t significantly affect the average iron intake.
"Research shows that wholegrains and cereal products (bread and fortified breakfast cereals) are the principal sources of iron in the average UK diet, followed by fruit, nuts, and vegetables.
"The 2014 National Diet and Nutrition Survey was in agreement – grains and cereal products were the largest contributor to iron intake for all age groups."
There are two forms of iron – haem and non-haem.
Powell says: "Haem iron comes from animals, non-haem iron comes from plants.
"Non-haem iron absorption is affected by your iron status – how much iron you already have in the body.
"People with low iron stores or higher requirements for iron will tend to absorb more (Saunders et al., 2013). Hence, iron from plant foods is more beneficial to the body because its absorption is regulated by the body’s needs.
"On the other hand, haem iron from animal foods is absorbed whether it’s needed or not and this can be dangerous."
Research shows that 'excessive' iron levels (iron overload) are linked to a host of serious conditions, including heart disease and cancer.
Instead, Powell recommends focusing on plant-based sources of grains, including: wholegrains, pulses, dried fruit (prunes, figs), nuts, and seeds.
She adds: "Vitamin C helps iron absorption so combine your iron-rich foods with citrus fruit, peppers, leafy greens, strawberries, or kiwi."
She warns that coffee or tea can reduce iron absorption - so you should wait an hour or so after eating to drink them.
Speaking exclusively to PBN, Powell concludes: "Vegans are not any more likely to be iron-deficient than meat-eaters, that’s simply a lie.
"If anything, vegans tend to know more about nutrition than omnivores and get more than enough of iron from plant foods."
You can find more detail about this story on Viva! Health here