You have probably heard the story that has recently gone viral: eating French fries could help you grow your hair and slow down hair loss. While most people doubted it–at least we hope so–some Internet users fell victim to this trick and kept on asking how many servings a day they should eat. Here is the answer: none. The whole story is a misinterpretation of a study aimed at growing hair follicles in a lab, not encouraging people to eat fast food.It all started with an article published in the November issue of the scientific journal Biomaterials. It is a report from Japanese scientists who devised a container in which they managed to grow a large number of hair follicles that could be used to treat people with hair loss. Most modern hair loss treatments imply transplantation of the person’s own hair, so the number of follicles is not increased – they are just moved to another spot. As a result of the study, the researchers now can grow hair follicles in a lab – it is the first attempt of its kind to be successful, as all previous attempts were far from being a breakthrough.
Fast food = fast hair?However, the way the story was told on the Internet differs dramatically from what was in the original paper. Daily Mail was the first to mention McDonald’s French fries in the headline of the news about the findings. It presented a rather accurate summary of what the scientists achieved, but they emphasized that the substance used to cultivate hair follicles is also added to the oil used to make fries. The claim led to a storm of articles repeating the same eat-fries-to-regrow-hair myth. The chemical that did the trick was dimethylpolysiloxane, which the researchers placed at the bottom of the vessel for cultivation. The fact that linked the new findings to McDonald’s is that it is also used as an additive in oil for frying. Dimethylpolysiloxane prevents foaming, and its use has recently been reported in one of their official videos. Journalists quickly realized that the connection could make headlines scandalous and jumped at the opportunity to introduce a piece of news that made everyone eat fries and feel less guilty due to its potential benefits. The truth is that there is no connection at all: eating fries, be it McDonald’s or whatever else, won’t help you regrow hair. The chemical is used as a substrate for growing, which means it won’t help you conjure hair follicles in your scalp.
No way!The researchers were surprised to find out their findings were interpreted in such a weird way. The study lead author Junji Fukuda was baffled when he received messages from people asking him how many servings of French fries would be enough for “treatment”. There is no way dimethylpolysiloxane can affect your hair follicles. While the study findings suggest the approach is likely to work in humans as well, it has nothing to do with consuming fast food: the oil used for frying is not a source of the chemical, and eating it won’t do you good. The myth was born due to journalists’ wish to make headlines as shocking or interesting as possible, and if it persists, the consequences can be damaging: fast food is associated with a wide range of detrimental effects on health, and increased consumption would aggravate the situation and exacerbate the symptoms of the society’s obesity epidemic, to say nothing of hair that would suffer from the harmful substances contained in oil used for frying. It’s especially dangerous to abuse frying oil, if it was used for longer than intended: the more the same oil is used for frying, the worse.
The bottom line is that trusting everything you read on the Internet can land you in hospital, so trust, but verify.