Obesity continues to dominate health discussions in the U.S., and it’s no mystery why. As waists grow larger, so does the risk of developing health issues. Carrying around too much weight has been linked to things like sleep apnea and high blood pressure, and more Americans are at risk than ever. According to Gallup, the obesity rate climbed to 27.7% among adults in 2014, the highest recorded value since they began tracking it in 2008.
With so much attention devoted to our country’s battle with weight gain, it’s easy to forget about the other side of the coin. While the same poll reported just 2% of Americans are underweight, they could also be in trouble. For starters, a severely lean frame will make a person look emaciated and sickly, which isn’t great for self-esteem. Furthermore, fat acts as the body’s insulation. Without enough of that protective layer, underweight individuals will feel cold all the time.
That’s just the beginning, though. When a guy gets too lean, he’s increasing his risk for a host of health complications. Read on to find out about nine ways losing too much weight could seriously damage your health.
1. Heart problems
Many of the problems associated with a low BMI stem from malnutrition, including heart complications. According to SFGate, underweight individuals put their tickers at risk as the muscle depends on an adequate supply of potassium, sodium, and calcium to function properly. Eventually, your body may even begin to break down your heart as a supply of energy when you don’t have enough calories to go around.
Of the conditions underweight individuals suffer, arrhythmias and mitral valve prolapse are two of the most common. Better know as an abnormal heartbeats, arrhythmias can occur when the heart pumps blood too fast or too slow. According to the American Heart Association, this abnormal beat could lead to brain or lung damage. Mitral valve prolapse is a bit different, as it has to do with the flap between the two chambers on the left side of your heart. Instead of lying flat, the valve bulges, which could lead to blood leakage within the heart and cause a stroke. In extreme cases of weight loss, your heart could even fail.
2. Weak bones
Our bodies rely on calcium to build strong, healthy bones, so going for a glass of milk or cup of yogurt is pretty important. The National Osteoporosis Foundation explained we lose this mineral through our sweat, nails, hair, and waste, so it’s critical to replace the nutrient through the foods we eat. Vitamin D is also necessary for healthy bones as it boosts the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Those who don’t eat enough to support a healthy weight will likely be shortchanging themselves on both of these nutrients, which increases the risk of low bone mineral density and fractures.
Though osteoporosis is usually considered a disease for elderly folks, a low BMI is another important risk factor. This means a person who is underweight is more vulnerable to bone density problems than someone in a normal weight range, even if that person consumes an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D.
3. Increased dementia risk
Some researchers have been examining the link between obesity and dementia for years, though it turns out they may be looking at the wrong end of the weight spectrum. A study published on The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology in 2015 found underweight individuals were 34% more likely to suffer from dementia than those of a healthy weight. The individuals who were the most overweight actually enjoyed a significantly decreased risk of developing the mental health disorder. More research on the topic needs to be done, but it’s still something to consider.
4. Fertility troubles
It’s not uncommon for underweight women to have issues conceiving, but men who don’t carry around enough padding could be equally at risk for fertility issues. A 2011 Danish study of more than 5,000 people revealed men with a low BMI were significantly more likely to experience sexual problems, including erectile dysfunction, than those who maintained a normal weight. Sadly, the bad news doesn’t end there. Even if an underweight man is able to perform adequately, his swimmers could still be suffering. One 2010 study reported underweight men experienced a lower sperm count than men who fell in the normal weight range.
Achieving a rock-bottom BMI is frequently a goal for guys who like to stay fit, but the amount of calories you need to slash in order to hit that number makes it incredibly difficult to maintain a social life. Opportunities to engage with friends can all but evaporate as eating out at a restaurant or grabbing a drink becomes too anxiety-inducing for those trying to stick to a clean diet. Before long, this guy will find himself feeling isolated and lonely.
Studies have plenty to say about the association between underweight individuals and depression as well. A 2009 study from VU University Amsterdam found adults who were overweight and underweight were both more likely to be depressed than those who maintained a healthy weight. Additionally, those with low BMIs were even more likely to suffer from the mental disorder. They’re also more likely to act on those feelings. According to a Swedish study of more than 1 million adult males, the risk of attempted suicide is greater among underweight men.
More commonly known as iron deficiency, anemia is another problem that can crop up for guys who aren’t getting adequate nutrition. Livestrong explained iron is a crucial ingredient in creating hemoglobin, a part of red blood cells that helps transport oxygen throughout our bodies. Without enough hemoglobin, you’ll feel completely exhausted and have trouble focusing.
When it comes to iron, the type of food is pretty important. Though plants like spinach and broccoli naturally contain high levels of iron, our bodies more readily absorb the type that comes from meat. This explains why vegetarians and vegans so frequently struggle with anemia. If you do tend to stick to plants, you’ll just have to work a little bit harder. WebMD suggested consuming vitamin C with iron-rich foods to help boost your absorption. On the flip side, try to stay away from calcium in the same meal since it can disrupt the process.
7. Compromised immune system
Different nutrients all play a vital role in keeping your body healthy. Skimp on any of them, and you could find yourself feeling under the weather. AZCentral.com reported underweight individuals may lack a sufficient amount of nutrient reserves to support a healthy immunity, which means it’s much more difficult for your body to fight off bacteria and viruses that lead to illness. Even if you’re not lacking in all areas, an insufficient supply of a nutrient here or there can still make an impact. An article from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed even minor deficiencies can alter your immune system’s response.
8. Weak muscles
If you’re looking to boost muscle mass, an extremely low body-fat percentage could actually do more harm than good. Men’s Fitness explained those who don’t have enough fat on their frames won’t be able to recover from training sessions since they’re lacking the appropriate amount of glycogen needed to rebuild ailing muscles. Combined with low energy from insufficient iron, it’ll be nearly impossible to keep up your strength, let alone increase it.
9. Increased mortality risk
Getting super lean might make you think you look good in your jeans, but it could lead to an early visit from the grim reaper. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found underweight subjects experienced a 1.8% increased risk of death than those in a normal weight range. Surprisingly, obese individuals only increased their risk over the normal BMI population by 1.2%. Dr. Joel Ray, the study’s lead author, told Tech Times thinness isn’t a good indicator of a person’s health. Rather, it’s a combination of healthy muscle mass, good bone structure, and an adequate amount of fat.