It is a popular notion that being underweight is preferable to being overweight. However, you will be surprised to know that being underweight or overly thin can also pose several health problems. To know what are the major health risks of being underweight, read this WellnessKeen article.
Mental Effects of Being Underweight
Being underweight for long may bring behavioral changes in an individual, one of them being heightened obsessiveness, usually in terms of routine activities, cleanliness, and even eating habits.
With all forms of media endorsing or promoting a skinny or thin body shape, you may feel the urge to become like them. Hence, you may feel compelled to take some drastic steps like crash diets, excessive gym workout, etc., to cut down on calories and achieve that slim and slender figure. However, depriving your body of its natural requirements can prove harmful, and invite numerous health problems in the long run.
Some people are naturally thin, and find it extremely difficult to put on weight, while others have eating disorders, which confines them to being underweight. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear that for good health, it is important to have optimal weight. To illustrate the point better, given below are certain health risks associated with being underweight.
Serious Health Problems of Being Underweight
Heart is the most vital organ that regulates blood circulation throughout the body and keeps the organs in a good working condition. However, if a person is underweight or experiences sudden weight loss, the heart becomes weaker due to the loss of heart muscle. This results in decreased pulse rate and a drop in the blood pressure, which may lead to a heart attack (in an extreme case). Being underweight may also lead to an increased risk of arrhythmia, which causes irregularity in heartbeats.
In 2011, a study carried out by researchers from the Institute of Metabolic Science in Cambridge examined the genetics of around 75,000 people. They found that people with the skinny gene are likely to have high levels of fats in their blood, which increases the chances of a heart disease. This is because the fat that is stored internally is extremely harmful than the fat that is stored under the skin.
It is a major health condition that is characterized by low bone mass, which makes the bones brittle, fragile, and weak. This leads to an increased susceptibility to bone fractures. Wrist, hip, and spine are the major areas that are prone to bone fractures. Body weight is an important factor in osteoporosis because it affects the bone density. According to a study published in the December 2010 issue of the Baltic Journal of Health and Physical Activity, being underweight means having low bone density because of constant vitamin D and calcium deficiencies, and people who have low bone mass are at a higher risk of getting osteoporosis than others.
A study done by Mayo Clinic suggests that though being underweight does not lead to arthritis, it does increase the difficulty level of dealing with the condition. There are greater chances of further inflammation in the entire body, if the person is below the optimal weight range.
Insufficient iron content in the body causes anemia. People who do not eat a balanced diet, rich in iron, and are underweight, tend to suffer from anemia. It is a health condition caused by a decrease in the number of red blood cells.
The chances of dysfunctional ovulation are greater in women who are underweight, which can prove to be a major obstruction in a pregnancy. Underweight women tend to experience an extremely irregular menstrual cycle, and even the flow of menstruation is inconsistent. Also, underweight women are incapable of sustaining and growing a healthy fetus, as they lack the minimum desired weight and body fat that is essential for conception.
Even underweight men can suffer from infertility. Studies carried out by Danish researchers (2004, Infertility and Sterility) say that there is a close relation between a man’s body weight and his sperm count. To be precise, if a man is below the standard weight range, then his sperm count is around 30% lower than others.
Other Health Problems of Being Underweight
People who have a BMI (Body Mass Index) less than normal, often suffer from severe nutritional deficiencies. For example, underweight people are deficient in calcium, and hence, experience brittleness in their bones, which further become prone to breakage. Another nutrient is vitamin D, which enhances the metabolism of calcium. An underweight individual suffering from deficiency of vitamin D may contract a disease called rickets. Also, if an underweight individual has vitamin C and iron deficiency, he/she may be prone to anemia and scurvy.
Immunity is the most important factor to prevent susceptibility to certain infections, illnesses, and diseases. Underweight people often suffer from nutritional deficiencies, which may lead to lowered immunity. Vitamins A and C are two of the major nutrients for maintaining a healthy immune system, and being underweight means being deprived of these vital nutrients. As a result of a weaker immune system, the body lacks the power to fight off the disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
Food gives us energy and strength to do routine tasks without feeling exhausted. However, if you have eating disorders or any other problems related to your diet, you may lose excessive weight and become underweight. This may lead to insufficient supply of fats and nutrients to the body, and you may experience fatigue or lack of energy in performing even normal day-to-day activities that do not require much strength. An insufficient amount of iron in the body leads to lowered energy levels, which may result in anemia.
Eating disorders (anorexia) have a close relation with depression and anxiety. Being malnourished or underweight can cause physiological changes, which can have a great impact on a person’s mood. As mentioned earlier, underweight individuals may become obsessed with perfectionism, which begins with their eating habits. They feel inferior and suffer from low self-esteem, and hence, strive hard to achieve perfection in everything.
Imbalance in Core Body Temperature
Have you ever wondered why skinny people often complain about feeling cold even when the outside temperature is quite warm? It is because their core body temperature is not regulated properly. When you have a healthy weight, your body is insulated with a layer of fat, which helps you stay warmer. This layer of fat is absent in people who are underweight, and hence, they feel cold most of the time. Putting on some pounds may help regulate the body temperature and prevent chills.
The bottom line is that appearing in the low-weight range is harmful for your well-being, and you should try to gain some pounds to minimize the above-mentioned health risks associated with it.
Once you learn that you are underweight, try to work it out with your physician and start a weight gain program. Initially, you may not feel like eating more than your natural appetite, but if you make yourself eat a little more every day, you will soon get into the habit, and within a few months you could see yourself in the healthy weight range.