Bariatric Weight-Loss Surgery

What to Know About the Dangers of Being Underweight

Dr. Jason F. Moy
Dr. Brian T. Chin
Daniel Roman
August 19, 2022
What to Know About the Dangers of Being Underweight

We often hear about the health implications of being overweight or obese. Of course, we know it increases your risk of a myriad of diseases, from diabetes and heart disease to struggles with mental health. But, being underweight is associated with certain health risks, as well. 

So, how do you know if you are underweight? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  use a Body Mass Index (BMI) chart to determine whether a person is a healthy weight. BMI measures body fat based on height and weight, which applies to adult men and women. BMI is an essential factor in determining overall health and wellness. But, it is just one single factor. The best picture of overall health combines the BMI scale and additional critical health factors. These include blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, cholesterol, and lean muscle mass vs. fat mass. 

Am I Underweight?

To answer the “am I underweight,” we look to the BMI chart. This chart divides into four categories: underweight, healthy, overweight, and obese.  A person who is determined to be underweight will have a body mass index of under 18.5. A person in this category is at higher risk for certain health conditions. They include:

  1. Malnutrition: Underweight people are more susceptible to malnutrition. This is because they may not consume enough healthy foods containing the nutrients their body needs to function optimally. Common symptoms of malnutrition include chronic fatigue, thinning hair, dry skin, and dental health issues. In addition, it can lead to anemia and other vitamin deficiencies if left untreated. 
  2. Decreased Immune Function: Studies show a link between being underweight and having a weaker immune system. If a person is not getting proper fuel from the food they eat, they may not be getting enough nutrients to fight off infections. As a result, underweight people might get sick more frequently and take longer to recover. 
  3. Osteoporosis: Studies show that low body weight may increase your risk for low bone mineral density and osteoporosis. It’s common for underweight people to be deficient in specific vitamins and minerals. For example, calcium is an important part of bone health. Low calcium intake may contribute to diminished bone density. This makes a person more susceptible to falls and increases a person's risk of fractures. 
  4. Infertility: Women with low BMIs are at increased risk for developing irregular periods. In addition, being underweight can affect fertility by causing hormone imbalances. These imbalances can cause problems in ovulation which decreases your chances of conception.  Furthermore, if you have a low BMI and become pregnant, your baby may pose certain risks. 

With help from your doctor, you may be able to attain a healthy BMI through lifestyle modifications and healthy eating habits.

What To Do If You Have An Underweight BMI

A BMI is calculated using this formula:

weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

In other words, you calculate BMI by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703. 

Suppose you fall into the category of an underweight BMI. In that case, your doctor can help you navigate solutions to address malnutrition, immune function, fertility, and any underlying health conditions that may be present. Unfortunately, it is common for underweight symptoms to be related to poor diet. The good news is there are creative ways to get more calories from nutrient-dense foods into your body. For example, nutrition experts recommend homemade protein smoothies made with milk to get a nice balance of  proteins, carbs, and fats. Dairy is also a great source of calcium, which helps combat osteoporosis. 

If you’re ready to change your life and health forever, contact one of our leading experts at BASS Bariatric Surgery Center today. Our surgeons are equipped with knowledge, expertise, experience, and mastery when it comes to bariatric and obesity surgery. We’re here to support you in taking that next step.

About The Author

Daniel Roman, Content Writer

Daniel Roman is a Digital Content Writer at BASS Medical Group. He received his Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley in 2021. Daniel has published multiple newspaper articles covering public health issues. His latest was a magazine cover story on pandemics and diseases that he co-wrote with Dr. Elena Conis, a historian of medicine, public health, and the environment.

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