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Being underweight

Being underweight is often not taken as seriously as being overweight.

The dangers of being overweight grab all of the headlines. It’s true we are in the grip of an obesity epidemic and the health risks of carrying too much weight are well publicised. However, with so many of us trying to lose a few pounds it doesn’t mean that being underweight is anything to be envious of.

It’s not much fun for those people who are desperately trying to put on weight. For some people it can be even more difficult gaining pounds than losing them.

Being underweight is often not taken as seriously as being overweight.

Studies about body weight usually refer to a measurement called BMI ( body mass index). This is worked out by dividing someone’s weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared.

The result is a number that doctors use as a guide to several categories: underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese, or severely obese.

A healthy weight falls between a BMI of 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight, and less than 18.5 is classed as underweight.

Reasons for being underweight

There are many reasons and causes for being underweight. They may be genetic, because of illness or a medical condition, or through a lack of food.

It may be down to your skinny genes, some people are naturally thinner than others. Usually there’s nothing to worry about from a health perspective but you may feel you want to gain a few pounds.

It could be caused by a medical condition. An overactive thyroid may lead to you being underweight. Digestive problems like IBS and Crohn’s disease may also lead to weight loss. Cancer may also lead to people becoming underweight.

Some other conditions can lead to a loss of appetite. If you have depression or stress it can affect your appetite, making you either eat less or more.

Emotional issues like bereavement or the break-up of a relationship may lead to weight loss and a lack of concern about food and eating.

Another reason for being underweight may be to do with extreme dieting and a general feeling in society that you can never really be too thin.

Excessively controlling your food intake may suggest an eating disorder. If this is a possibility, seek medical advice.

Health risks of being underweight

If you feel you are underweight and don’t know why it’s worth seeking medical advice and having a few tests if needed.

There are certain health risks with being underweight.

You are more likely to pick up infections as your immune system may not be as strong as it could be. So you may be more vulnerable to colds and flu, for example.

WebMD UK Health News

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