Underweight is a condition in which an individual’s body weight is too low to be considered a healthy individual. Underweight people are commonly termed skinny, bony, lean, and emaciated. Underweight also can be defined as a low body mass index for age. Being underweight is an indicator of malnutrition. Malnutrition is a state that occurs due to a deficit of one or more nutrients in the diet. In other words, lack of macronutrients; protein, carbohydrate, and fat; and micronutrients; vitamins, and minerals are termed undernourishment. Extreme undernourishment results due to starvation that results in a thin body, low energy level, and swollen abdomen and legs. During starvation, fatty tissue is lost, and the skeletal and heart muscles are atrophied. The small intestine is also atrophied and loses its absorptive functions. There is a deposition of fat and a decrease in glycogen store in the liver. The liver, therefore, converts amino acids to glucose which supplies energy t
Causes of being Underweight
Underweight is due to inadequacy in intake of food in terms of both qualitatively and quantitively. A low-calorie diet fails to complete the nutritional demand of the body. Ignorance and poverty are the major factors whereby individuals cannot purchase adequate food or are unaware of low-cost nutritious food. Individuals who have psychological disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are commonly underweight as they don’t take food in adequate amounts. Irregular eating habits and improper selection of food contribute to inadequacy in calories and nutrients. Increment in physical activity but not taking diet according to it led to a deficit in energy that reduces weight. Underweight commonly occurs in people who take little rest, are active the whole day, and are always tense and nervous. Gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea lead to inadequate absorption of nutrients, use of laxatives for constipation also results in poor nutrients absorption. Increased metabolic demands in some pathological conditions such as chronic fever, infections, and cancer drain the reserved nutrient resources of the body. Due to poor appetite, individuals cannot take adequate food. Imbalance in hormones such as hyperthyroidism causes an increment in metabolic rate, and inability to maintain weight increases the energy demand and causes weight reduction, i.e., leads to the underweight condition.
The Risks of being Underweight
Underweight leads to retardation of growth in young growing children and failure to thrive. It can lead to kwashiorkor and marasmus in children. Underweight individuals have lower resistance to infections such as cold, flu and tuberculosis, etc., and their general health is commonly poor. Being underweight increases the risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones, prone to breaking) in women. Due to low energy, individual’s working efficiency is reduced, and they feel tired and restless. Underweight girls may have irregular periods, and their first period can be delayed or absent lead to infertility. Underweight also increases the complications during pregnancy lead to preterm labor and small babies. Individuals that suffer from underweight may experience thinning of hair and skin, dry skin, and poor oral health. They may have anemia that causes fatigue, dizziness, and headache. During surgery, underweight people are at high risk of mortality because of impairment in the healing process.
o the brain. It also converts lactate and pyruvate to glucose. The kidney breaks down amino acids to form ammonia and glucose. Thus, an individual is unable to maintain weight.
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