The dangers of being underweight

Nutrition experts advise maintaining a proper Body Mass Index. This is why it is necessary to do check-ups often so that you are advised on the necessary meal plan that falls under your weight.

According to Rene Tabaro, a senior nutritionist and dietician at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, body mass index is between 18.5 and 24.9, which is the normal range — though the weight corresponds to height. If someone is above 24.9 body index, they are overweight, and if they are below 18.5, then they are underweight.


Caleb Karangira, a nutritionist at Catholic Relief Service, says that being underweight can be due to frequent physical activity, physical illness, and mental illness, lack of food, drug use or family history.

He adds that some people are underweight simply because they are not following a healthy, balanced diet, or some are on medications that make them feel nauseated.

Some physical conditions can cause weight loss, some of these could be; stomach problems, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, cancer, infections, diabetes, typhoid, Crohn’s disease and others, Karangira adds.

This, he says, can be solved by eating smaller meals a number of times a day, especially for those without an appetite.

He notes that it is important to avoid foods that are high in sugar and salt. Add calorie-dense food sources to the existing diet and, adding high-protein and whole-grain carbohydrate snacks can help a person gain weight.


Karangira explains that there are certain health risks associated with being underweight or having poor nutrition, and some of these are; fertility issues triggered by irregular menstrual cycles, growth issues — especially in children and teenagers.

He adds that malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and anaemia can also occur when someone lacks a balanced diet. However, immune functioning can also decrease.

Karangira says that feeling tired or exhausted, getting sick often, having irregular or skipped menses, suffering from hair loss, dry skin, or teeth issues are evident enough that one is malnourished.

He adds, being underweight while pregnant can cause risks for the baby. That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy.

Recent studies show that underweight people also suffer from cardiovascular diseases, and that they are at greater risk than those with a normal BMI value. Underweight people are 3.6 times more likely to experience coronary heart disease than those of normal weight. If the coronary artery is affected, underweight individuals are at greater risk of early death than those who are either of normal weight or overweight.


An underweight person needs to consult dieticians for nutrition advice. If a person is underweight, their body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to build healthy bones, skin, and hair.

For underweight people, the body lacks sufficient energy, yet the organs like the liver, kidney, heart all require energy. Hence, the body uses other means to find energy.

Tabaro says the recommended nutrition for underweight people is to increase fat foods like cheese, butter, milk, full milk, eggs and much more. Include carbohydrates like rice, sweet potatoes, sorghum, and cereal in your diet.

He adds that avocados are full of healthy fats and nutrients. No wonder they can be added to many different meals or eaten on their own.

Rice is a great source of carbs that are easy to consume and digest. However, he says some types of rice are high in arsenic.

He also says that protein is also necessary for increasing weight. For instance, red meat, fish, chicken, silverfish, and milk. Taking milk assists in adding proteins to your diet. It contains both casein and whey proteins.

Tabaro explains that red meat is a superb source of protein that will help you gain muscle, as it contains leucine, an amino acid that helps to boost muscle protein blend.

He notes that if protein supplements are added to the diet, they can also help you increase protein intake.

Tabaro further says that eggs are full of nutrients and are a type of food that build the muscles.

He says, 2,100 are daily calories necessity, it can increase depending on someone’s daily activity. In order to calculate the energy, you need an elaborate meal plan to make 4,000 calories a day.

Tabaro says that pregnant women need more energy required to increase breast milk.

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