HEALTHLINE – There’s a lot of focus in the medical world on the health effects of being overweight, but what about the effects of being underweight?
There are certain health risks associated with being underweight or having poor nutrition.
These risks include:
- malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, or anemia
- osteoporosis from too little vitamin D and calcium
- decreased immune function
- increased risk for complications from surgery
- fertility issues caused by irregular menstrual cycles
- growth and development issues, especially in children and teenagers
Keep reading to learn more about these risks of being underweight, plus how to identify if you are underweight, what symptoms you may experience, and how you can find help.
How do you know if you’re underweight?
Your body mass index (BMI) can help you and your doctor determine if you’re underweight. BMI is an estimate of your body fat based on your height and weight.
“Low body weight may increase your risk for low bone mineral density (BMD) and osteoporosis.”
There are some limitations to determining your health using BMI alone.
Athletes can have muscular builds. Since muscle weighs more than fat, BMI may overestimate body fat for these individuals.
Older adults may have lost muscle. In this case, BMI may underestimate body fat.
If you’re underweight, you may not be eating enough healthy foods with key nutrients to fuel your body. That can cause malnutrition. Over time, malnutrition can affect your health in a number of different ways that may be noticeable to you or those around you.
Your symptoms might include:
- feeling tired or drained of energy
- getting sick often or having trouble fighting off illness
- having irregular or skipped periods in females
- experiencing hair thinning or loss, dry skin, or teeth issues
A study from Japan compared dietary habits of underweight women with a desire to be thin vs. underweight women without this desire.
They found that the underweight women with a desire to be thin had less healthy eating habits than underweight women who did not have this desire.
If you’re underweight, you may be more likely to also be malnourished if your low BMI is caused by an unbalanced diet or an underlying disease … READ MORE.