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What are the Dangers of Being Underweight?


We often hear of the dangers associated with obesity, but rarely with being underweight.

Though thin is in vogue, being underweight can put a person at greater risk for a number of diseases and conditions.

Health Risks of Being Underweight

Being underweight can cause a number of health risks, including:

  1. Issues with fertility. Both women and men can experience problems with fertility when underweight, particularly those with a low BMI (body mass index). During pregnancy, women with a low BMI are more likely to miscarry than those with an average BMI. When a man has a low BMI, he is likely to have a lower sperm count than one with a regular BMI. Additionally, women who are underweight may not experience regular menstrual cycles. Because of this irregularity, ovulation can be skewed and disrupt a healthy pregnancy later in life.
  2. Lowered immunity. When a person is underweight, the immune system becomes vulnerable – there may not be enough Vitamin A and C reserves to prevent even simple illnesses like the flu.
  3. Lack of energy. If the body does not have enough fat to burn throughout the day, a person is likely to feel physically weak. Day-to-day tasks like going to work or school may seem difficult. Low energy can also be due to a lack of iron in the body. When there is a lack of iron in the blood, a person may develop anemia, which causes drowsiness.
  4. Change in body temperature. Without a healthy layer of fat to insulate the body, a person's core body temperature can become colder. Those who are underweight may even feel chilly if the air outside is warm.

The Right Way to Gain Weight

There are a number of ways to slowly and healthily put on weight. Choosing nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and lean protein sources are just a few choices. Snacking on calorie-dense foods like nuts, peanut butter, cheese and avocados can also help in weight gain. Extras like cheese, soups and scrambled eggs can also add to a higher calorie intake.

Exercise, especially strength training, can help build muscle and therefore increase weight. Exercising will also stimulate a person's appetite.

Source: Mayo Clinic