Growing Low Body Mass Index in the U.K.

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  • BMI is a metric measuring weight and height, with a healthy range between 18.5-24.9.
  • Low BMI is becoming increasingly common among adults in England, particularly women.
  • Low BMI can cause anemia, fatigue, a weakened immune system, and decreased fertility.
  • Possible causes include genetics, ethnicity, hyperthyroidism, eating disorders, and medical conditions.
  • Solutions include scans to identify underlying health issues, healthy diet and exercise, and professional help from nutritionists or doctors.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is essential to living a healthy life. It helps improve overall health and reduces the chances of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. In the United Kingdom, there has been a recent rise in the number of people with body mass index (BMI) below the healthy range. Low BMI can lead to various health issues and severe eating disorders. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Understanding BMI

Body mass index (BMI) is the calculation of the weight and height of an individual. It is the most commonly used metric to determine whether an individual is underweight, overweight, or within the healthy range. The healthy BMI range is between 18.5 to 24.9. When the BMI falls below this range, it is considered underweight and may indicate malnourishment.

The Rising Trend of Low BMI in the U.K

Recent statistics have shown that there has been a rise in the number of people with a low BMI in the United Kingdom. The average BMI in the U.K. is between 23 to 28, depending on the individual’s age. However, a study by the NHS in 2019 revealed that nearly 4% of adults in England have a BMI of under 18.5. Notably, the problem seems to be more widespread among females. According to the study, nearly 6.4% of women aged 16 to 64 have a BMI of less than 18.5.

Health Risks of Low BMI

Low BMI affects not only physical health but also mental health. It can lead to anemia, fatigue, a weakened immune system, and decreased fertility. In severe cases, prolonged low BMI can lead to osteoporosis, severe malnutrition, and even organ failure. It is also highly associated with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

Causes of Low BMI

There are various reasons behind low BMI in the U.K. Here are some of them:

Anorexic man

Genetics and Ethnicity

Some people may have inherited skinny gene composition from their parents, leading to low BMI. Similarly, ethnicity can also affect weight distribution among different populations. For instance, people of Asian descent often have smaller frames and body compositions than those of African descent.


Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormones than is required for metabolism, leading to an increased metabolic rate. This increase in metabolism can cause an individual to lose weight rapidly, resulting in a low BMI score.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are significant contributors to low BMI. Anorexia involves an obsessive desire to maintain a low weight, resulting in severe malnutrition and low BMI. Conversely, bulimia occurs when an individual eats a large amount of food and promptly induces vomiting, leading to a rapid reduction in weight and low BMI.

Cancer and Other Medical Conditions

Medical conditions such as cancer and AIDS can cause an individual to lose weight rapidly, resulting in a low BMI score. Additionally, gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease can cause malabsorption, reducing nutrients and contributing to low BMI.

High Activity Level

Individuals who engage in high levels of physical activity, such as athletes and professional dancers, may have lower BMI scores due to their high muscle mass. Muscles weigh more than fat, so having a higher muscle mass can result in a healthy BMI but a low body fat percentage.

Dealing With Low BMI

Thankfully, there are various ways you can deal with low BMI. Here are some of them:

Early Diagnosis

You must first find out if you have a low BMI or not. An affordable DEXA scan can help you with this. This kind of scan can look into your fat and muscle level, which will help you understand whether you need to gain weight. Additionally, the scan can identify any underlying medical conditions contributing to your low BMI.

Healthy diet for people

Monitor Diet

Once you have confirmed your low BMI, it is essential to monitor your diet. Include healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and good fats in your meal plan. Additionally, try to avoid processed foods and sugar as much as possible.

Engage in Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity can improve BMI scores by increasing muscle mass and burning fat. It also increases energy levels which can help with cravings for unhealthy food. Furthermore, exercise is known to release endorphins which can benefit mental health.

Seek Professional Help

If the above tips don’t work, it is essential to seek professional help. Eating disorder treatment clinics and nutritionists can provide support in dealing with low BMI. They can create a diet plan and prescribe necessary medications to regain the lost weight.

Low BMI is becoming increasingly common in the United Kingdom, especially among females. It can lead to serious health issues, so taking preventive measures such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly is essential. If the condition persists, seeking professional help from a nutritionist or doctor is essential. With the proper support, you can regain your healthy BMI quickly.

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