There is a saying among doctors that overweight issues are over-hyped and underweight issues are under-hyped. There are millions of underweight people on this planet who are desperately trying to gain some pounds. But, their plight is unheard and they are left to fight this battle on their own.
There is a common misconception that thin people are underweight. A person is underweight, if his/her body weight is too low to be healthy.
For knowing this you have to calculate your body mass index (BMI) by dividing your weight in kilograms with the square of your height in meters.
BMI = Weight (KG)/[Height(Meters)]^2
If your BMI is less than 18.5 then you are underweight. 18.5 to 25 is normal healthy weight and more than 25 is overweight.
Causes of Being Underweight
1. Undernutrition – This is the most common cause. In a country like India where the per capita Income is very low most of the households cannot earn three meals a day. It’s true for rural India and urban low and lower middle class population. They not only have fat and protein deficiency but are deficient in micro-nutrients like Vitamins, Minerals and Trace Elements.
2. Diseases – Some diseases are known to cause weight loss like diabetes, over active thyroids, cancers, tuberculosis and intestinal diseases. Unexplained weight loss should be investigated by the doctor.
3. Habits – People who smoke and drink are also known to be underweight.
4. By Choice – People who diet for one or the other reason under social pressure, like before weddings, big events, beauty pageants and ramp-walkers etc.
The Effects of Being Underweight
Underweight people might be an envy of the obese, but like them they are also facing health problems.
An underweight person is thin, lethargic, listless, gets tired easily and has no stamina.
The skin is rough, coarse and lacks luster.
There is no glow on their face.
Eyes are sunken and hollow with dark circles.
Their hair start thinning and fall easily.
They can have dental problems and ulcers in the mouth.
They are frequently anaemic (low hemoglobin) and get breathless with exertion.
Many females have menstrual problems, infertility issues and low birth weight babies if pregnant.
As they lack vitamins and minerals which are required for repairing the wear and tear of body, it takes a toll on their immunity. So they frequently catch infections which take longer to heal.
Many people have weak and soft bones which are prone to fractures due to calcium and vitamin deficiency.
Sleep disturbances are common and they have restless legs in bed at night. They also have psychiatric disorders.
(In the next parts Dr Niruta Sharma will tell you about the psychiatric impact of anorexia and how to gain weight the healthy way)
Dr Niruta Sharma is a Consultant in Cardiology Department at RML Hospital and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, New Delhi. She wants to simplify health issues for public. She can be reached out on Twitter/@Nirutasharma)