A research team at Tokyo Medical and Dental University has discovered a molecular mechanism to explain why obesity can lead to hair loss, Science Daily reported on 21 September.

The researchers used mouse model experiments to examine how a high-fat diet or genetically induced obesity could affect hair thinning and loss, the report said.

Published in Nature, the results showed that obesity could lead to depletion of hair follicle stem cells (HFSCs), which blocked hair follicle regeneration and ultimately resulted in hair loss.

“High-fat diet (HFD) feeding accelerates hair thinning by depleting HFSCs that replenish mature cells that grow hair, especially in old mice,” lead author of the study Hironobu Morinaga was quoted as saying.

The team compared the gene expression in HFSCs between HFD-fed mice and standard diet-fed mice and traced the reaction, according to the report.

“We found that HFSCs in HFD-fed obese mice change their fate into the skin surface corneocytes or sebocytes that secrete sebum upon their activation. Those mice show faster hair loss and smaller hair follicles along with depletion of HFSCs,” Morinaga added.

The study provided an insight into the specific cellular fate changes and tissue dysfunction that could occur following a high-fat diet or genetically induced obesity, the report said, and could open the door for future prevention and treatment of hair thinning as well as for understanding of obesity-related diseases.