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Being Underweight Affects Bone Health

The CDC has named obesity as the number one health problem in America, but there’s another side to the weight issue that doesn’t get much attention – being underweight. For many, this may sound like a perk rather than a disadvantage. But in fact, being overly thin carries its own set of health risks, including osteoporosis and broken bones.

We often tend to think of body fat as the enemy, but we all need some fat in order for our bodies to function properly. Fat is responsible for producing estrogen, a hormone found in both men and women that regulates bone mass and strength. With too little estrogen in our bodies, bones become weak and prone to fractures. Low estrogen can also contribute to the early onset of osteoporosis (Source: howstuffworks).

Those who are underweight also have difficulty reaping the benefits of weight-bearing exercise. Activities like walking, jogging, hiking or dancing, cause your bones to adapt to the impact from supporting your body weight, making them stronger. However, if your body is underweight, your bones are not bearing a load heavy enough to challenge and strengthen them (Source: Livestrong).

If you are unsure whether your body weight falls within a healthy range, begin by calculating your body mass index (BMI). This is a numeric figure that represents your weight-to-height ratio. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal. Anything below 18.5 is considered underweight.

If you are underweight, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your risk for health issues such as osteoporosis. Your doctor will evaluate your health, diet and activity level to determine whether there is an underlying cause for your low weight. It may be necessary to begin vitamin supplements or a weight-gain program to help you safely reach a healthy body weight.