Essex University raised its concerns that the focus on obesity means that those who are underweight are now being overlooked. There was a time when eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia were at the focus on dietary health. However, with do much emphasis on fighting obesity,. underweight conditions are being sidelined. Essex University raised its concerns at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool.
Dr Gavin Sandercock, Director of MSc Cardiac Rehabilitation at University of Essex who researches paediatric physical activity and fitness and a principal investigator for the East of England Healthy Hearts Study, reminded delegates that being underweight was more damaging to health than being overweight.
According to data from the World Health Organisation more people die from being underweight each year than die from obesity related illness. Also, ill-health in teenagers is more likely to be caused by malnutrition than obesity.
In a recent study by Dr Gavin Sandercock if was found that around 6% of children between the ages of 9 and 16 were underweight. Asians are often more likely to be underweight, and girls are more often underweight than boys.
Too Much Focus on Obesity
While obesity is damaging to health and much more needs to be done, the government and health departments cannot lose sight of the serious health problems faced when people become severely underweight.
Also, the fear of becoming obese may be causing some children to avoid food and this poses the risk of some people developing anorexia.
Research published in January 2013 revealed that many doctors are ignorant of the health risks associated with being very underweight;
Knowledge base among middle-grades doctors in England and Wales on this topic is worryingly poor, particularly in relation to several life-threatening features. Lee D Hudson et al, 2013.
Doctors, the government and carers should not lose sight of the problem of malnutrition. Being underweight may not be in the spot light at the moment, but it is a serious problem and poses far more immediate risk than obesity.
Research Papers and Further Reading
Low levels of knowledge on the assessment of underweight in children and adolescents among middle-grade doctors in England and Wales by Lee D Hudson et al, Archives of Disease in Childhood, Published Online First 31 January 2013.
Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey by Tim J Cole et al. BMJ 2000; 320 doi: https://www.bmj.com/content/320/7244/1240 (Published 6 May 2000)