Although there are far more overweight people around than underweight, the latter may be a problem in those afflicted. Sometimes disease can cause person to become underweight, often dramatically, and needs medical investigation by the doctor. However, there are many ways to improve weight; the methods are simple and practical.

It is a strange paradox, but while one of the world is today starving to the other half is eating itself to death!

Many developing lands, and in particular the developing world in general, suffer from undernourishment to a severe degree. Unfortunately, in many of these countries populations are constantly in hunger.

Warning: sometimes an attempt to gain weight is to anticipate nature increasing at an alarming rate. The population tends to catch up to the total food availability, and invariably goes way past it.

Therefore, in many lands there is under nutrition, underweight (with consequent inroads of disease and debility) and general body thinness. However, while the Western world in general has too much food, and an excess of availability of it, there are some people who are underweight. They are outnumbered by far by the overweight, but thin people contrast even more sharply with the well-fed people with whom they inevitably associate. This tends to make them stand out in stark relief. The very thin dislike their appearance almost as much as the overweight, although as a class they are far less vocal about it. Doctors are frequently visited by the underweight and asked for advice as to what to do.

Causes of Underweight

Of course, there are many causes. Just as there are constitutionally obese persons, so the reverse also holds true. There are many who have a genetic predisposition to be thin. “Small boned” is a common phrase, used in the hope of hiding the suggestion of any disability.

Just as many overweight people have been brought up on foods since babyhood that predisposed to adult obesity, so the underweight person most likely has been brought up on a dietetic intake that tends to produce a thin adult body.

Many thin people simply do riot enjoy the high-carbohydrate (and consequently high-kilojoule) foods. They do not eat sweets and chocolate and cake and pastry by choice. Their consumption of potato and allied products tends to be low. Their intake of sugar and sugar based foods is also much lower than average. They prefer foods to be unsweetened, don’t have sugar in their beverages, and drink simple water or unsweetened fruit juice in preference to bottled carbonated drinks, which are notoriously high in sugar (arid kilojoule) content.

On the whole, underweight people tend to be healthier as a class than the overweight. They tend to be quicker in their movements, be more active in the total daily volume of exercise, may he more mentally active, but not necessarily so.

However, a very underweight person, particularly one who is losing weight, may have some inherent disorder that must be corrected. Weight loss can be a sign of serious disease. Such wasting disorders as cancer and tuberculosis are notorious in this respect. Anaemia and many other illnesses cause the body to deplete its food stores quicker. It may be due to a reduced intake of kilojoules simply because the illness is making the person less hungry and consequently eat less. Or it may be due to increased metabolic rates. There are various views.

The sudden onset of weight loss should be considered a potentially serious symptom. It often follows acute illnesses, and in these events, if it is a relatively short lived, mild infection, may not be of consequence. For example, a bad bout of a viral influenza, particularly if accompanied with a gastric component where there is nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, will quickly lead to a rapid weight loss. If this persists for a week or two, it can readily strip four to ten kilos from a pers frame. Many of these sicknesses or brief duration, and as soon as the illness is over, and the fluid losses are stop; and the normal eating pattern is resumed, the weight will gradually cc: on again.

Actually, some people welcome a short illness such as this, for it may strip away enough unwanted fat to bring weight to a level they may have striving to achieve for a long time. Once the weight has reduced, it is far easier keep it at a static level simply by diet and discretion.

If there is no obvious cause for be: underweight, if it is worrying the patient or if it has occurred suddenly for no apparent reason, a medical examination is worthwhile. The doctor may order to exclude serious causes, such as cancer or TB. In younger persons these are unlikely, but anything can happen. Do not say to yourself, “I’m only 30. Nothing serious could possibly happen to me.” It may, and the only way to be sure it won’t is to obtain an expert opinion.