Being underweight can demonstrate as many health concerns as being overweight can. In case a person is underweight, it primarily means that the body is not getting adequate nutrients that it requires to build healthy skin, bones, and hair. While certain people might have a genetic background or perhaps a medical illness that prevents them from gaining weight, there are several natural interventions that doctors can advise in order to help a person gain weight. We are going to take a look at the same, in this article.

risks of being underweight

Understanding Your Body Mass Index (BMI)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as CDC – recommend people to make use of BMI or body mass index for calculating if they are at a healthy weight, overweight or underweight. An individual can calculate their BMI by visiting the CDC’s Adult BMI calculator as well. The ranges for BMI are as follows:

  • A person is considered underweight if the BMI reads less than 18.5.
  • BMI will range from 18.5 to 24.9 for an individual with a normal and healthy weight.
  • For overweight people, the BMI ranges from 25.0 to 29.9.
  • A person is considered obese if BMI is 30 or higher.

There are various causes for being underweight. Some people tend to have an innate low BMI owing to the physical characteristics that run in their family. They, also, might not gain weight in spite of having high energy foods owing to a high metabolic rate.

Therefore, athletes, runners and others who engage in great levels of physical activity, might burn enormous amounts of calories which result in low body weight. Other causes include chronic illnesses such as vomiting, thyroid, and diarrhea as they lead to a remarkable decrease in a person’s appetite for which they do not feel like eating. Diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer contribute to a remarkable decrease in weight – this results in fatigue, perpetual sweating, and malaise. Depression, anxiety and eating disorders such as bulimia can affect an individual’s appetite and body image as well.

While being overweight and obese does carry extensive health risks and can result in death, new studies have proven how being underweight is far more dangerous than being overweight. Anorexia, an emotional disorder which is characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat is extremely harmful, and perhaps, far more perilous than being obese. This is because anorexia patients are highly prone to other mental issues such as bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and depression. One out of every five deaths caused by anorexia is due to suicide owing to the aforementioned mental problems.

Main Risks of Being Underweight

Not every individual who is underweight experiences adverse effects or symptoms. However, there are few who experience dire side-effects of being underweight. They are as follows:

  • Osteoporosis – According to a 2016 study, being underweight enhances a postmenopausal woman’s risk of osteoporosis. This is when the bones become brittle and are more prone to breaking. This is primarily because of the deficiency of calcium and protein-rich nutrients such as a good amount of milk, yogurt, eggs, pulses, etc in their everyday diet.
  • Skin, hair, and teeth problems – An underweight individual is often prone to skin, hair and teeth problems. This is because calcium, the right amount of fatty acids, zinc, iron, and biotin are missing in their bodies. Deficiency of any of these reflects in one’s body in the form of chronic dermatitis, hair loss, and hair fall. Therefore, underweight people are recommended to include food items rich in vitamins A, C, D, and E in their diet – papaya, bell pepper, citrus fruits, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, fish oil, etc.
  • The tendency of falling sick and feeling exhausted frequently – An underweight person tends to fall sick quite often; and ordinary illnesses, such as cold and flu can last longer than they usually should. This is because their body lacks the nutrients which are essential for building up a strong immunity which is capable of fighting off infections. Immunity boosting food items such as garlic, ginger, spinach, almonds, yogurt, etc keep an individual fit with normal weight. Calories are the measurement of the total energy a specific food can give a person – not getting sufficient calories for maintaining a healthy and normal weight can result in fatigue as well.
  • Anemia and irregular periods in women – A person who is underweight is likely to have low blood counts. This is because, our regular diet comprises vitamin-rich foods such as a good number of fruits including apple, bananas, and green leafy vegetables, meat, fish, broccoli, nuts and seeds which elevate the level of hemoglobin and bring it to normalcy – low hemoglobin level can cause dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. Similarly, low blood count owing to underweight can result in irregular periods, at times; it might stop at an early age too. An adolescent’s menstruation cycle might get delayed or may be absent too. Irregular and absent menstruation causes infertility, in the majority of the cases.
  • Premature births – A study published in An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology stated that a woman who is pregnant and underweight is at a much higher risk for preterm labor, which means having a baby prior to 37 weeks of gestation. BMI is calculated based on the recorded height and pregnancy weight – underweight during pregnancy is defined below 18.5 kg/sq. meter and further categorized into severe when it is below 16 kg/sq. meter. Normal BMI is defined as anything from 18.5 to 24.9 kg/sq. meter.
  • Extremely slow or impaired growth – Young people, especially from childhood to adolescence, need nutrients in order to grow and develop healthy bones. Being underweight and getting inadequate calories often result in stunted growth and body development. In medical terminology, doctors call this ‘failure to thrive’. Therefore, eating several meals a day is recommended because there are quite a number of people whose appetite happens to be less and they cannot eat one or two hefty meals. For proper body development and growth, one ought to eat low-calorie foods, ones which are not high in sugar and salt because high-calorie foods may cause extreme gain in weight and excess fats to affect an individual’s blood vessels and heart.

Concluding Thoughts

A person with underweight can, therefore, have innumerable complications and must seek medical help if they seem to experience a sudden loss in weight followed by fatigue and other health issues.