How Much Weight Loss is Concerning?
Many times, people experience unexplained weight loss or lose weight without trying. It should become a cause of alarm if it is significant or persistent, for it may indicate towards underlying medical problem or disorder.
It is not clear as to when this disorder becomes a medical concentration but as per many doctors if the weight loss is more than 5 percent of the weight in six months or a year and more so if one is an adult of old age.
As an example, if someone weighs 72 kilograms, 5 percent weight loss is 3.6 kilograms.
That should bring down the weight of that individual to 68.4 kilograms. This calls for a medical evaluation or a medical check-up. Calorie intake, overall health, stress levels, activity level, nutrient absorption, heredity, age as well as economic and social factors affect a person’s weight.
Anyone or a combination of these factors can affect a person’s overall health. Unexplained or sudden weight loss may be due to medical or nonmedical causes.
Generally, undetected cancer at the early stage may show other symptoms but may cause unexplained weight loss.
Potential medical causes of unexplained weight loss:
Unexplained weight loss may be due to many causes which include, build-up of abnormal proteins in the body (Amyloidosis), adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease), celiac disease, cancer, changes in appetite or diet, changes in taste or smell, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbation or worsening of symptoms, Crohn’s disease which is a type of chronic inflammation of the bowel leading to diarrhea, dementia, major depressive order or dementia dental problem, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, heart failure, overactive or underactive thyroid (hyper or hypothyroidism), hypercalcemia, Parkinson’s disease, medication, ulcerative colitis, tuberculosis, peptic ulcer and substance abuse like alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, etc.
Sometimes treatments like radiation therapy or chemotherapy for diseases like cancer can lead to weight loss.
When to see a doctor
Seeing a doctor becomes urgent when one loses weight significantly say 5 percent of one’s weight within six months or one year without trying to reduce weight.
It becomes even more necessary in the case of older adults where even a small weight loss may matter. The doctor will assess the disorder after checking history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and imaging scans to detect especially the possibility of cancer or any other reasons.
Sometimes if the test results are negative, doctors put the person on observation for six months or put them on a special diet to either prevent further weight loss or to help gain weight.
It is advisable for good health that one takes diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, milk and milk products, nuts, beans, legumes, lentils, a small amount of lean meat and does exercise for at least 150 minutes per week increasing the intensity gradually. One should avoid tobacco, alcohol, weed, etc, and drink enough water to pass colorless urine.
A loss of body weight of up to 10 pounds in a person without any change in his lifestyle or dietary contents, or due to a stressed state of mind, or without increased exercise level, then it is a cause for worry.
This happens due to impaired nutrient absorption, tapeworm in the stomach, thyroid disease, or cancer.
This certainly calls for immediate medical attention. The possibility of any other chronic disease underlying which may need investigation cannot be ignored.
Weight loss as a sign of cancer
How do know how much weight loss is concerning? If a person loses weight without any reason for say; more than 10 pounds, it may signal cancer which may be of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus (Food pipe), or lungs.
Generally, in the initial stages of cancer, there is unexplained weight loss accompanied by loss of appetite.
Thus, it is also a way to detect cancer early before it can cause too much damage.
How much weight loss is too much?
More than 1 to 2 pounds per week or 4 to 8 pounds of weight loss per month should put one on alert.
Slower metabolism slows down weight loss even if one eats the same number of calories that helped reduce one’s weight.
A plateau is reached when the number of calories burnt is equal to the number of calories taken in. Cancer is generally the main reason for sudden or unexplained weight loss when undetected.
Other cancers like ovarian cancer cause weight loss when a large tumor grows in the stomach. Sometimes unexpected weight loss happens due to the weakening or wasting of muscles.
Tuberculosis, bacterial lung disease can also lead to weight loss.
So to understand what is considered rapid weight loss let us take an example.
If a person weighs 160 pounds and his weight comes down to 152 pounds suddenly or without any apparent reason within six to twelve months, one should take it as rapid weight loss necessitating seeing a doctor.
Especially if one happens to be an elderly adult this can be the cause of worry and may warrant consultation with a doctor.
Thus, we now understand when to worry about weight loss. i.e As a matter of rule one should see a doctor if one loses more than 5 percent of one’s weight — within 6 to 12 months.
Also as a matter of abundant precaution, one should take note of any other symptoms to speak to one’s doctor. However, one should also not forget that all weight loss is not necessarily serious and avoid getting panicky.
Why can weight loss happen even after a good intake?
There are other causes of weight loss other than cancer which may include viral infection like CMV or HIV, gastroenteritis, parasite infection, bowel disease, and depression.
Losing 1 to 2 pounds a week is healthy but more than this in rapid succession can be the cause of worry leading to muscle loss, gall stones, nutritional deficiency, and a drop in metabolism.
Non- medical reasons for adverse weight loss
While weight loss due to medical conditions is a matter of serious concern and need immediate consultation with the doctor and medical intervention, there could be non-medical and unintentional reasons too which can lead to weight loss and ultimately serious health hazard.
One must know what these are to avoid them. Obesity is a common problem and people work hard to lose fat. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and drinking enough water are necessary to achieve this.
However, people overdo it particularly in crash diets, liquid diets, and fasting as dieting which causes harm and leads to medical conditions. Following precautions are advisable:
- Taking supplement
Though there are many supplements available across the board, do not take them without consulting your doctor lest it should seriously harm you.
- Detox plan
Detox is another popular strategy followed to lose extra weight.
However, all detox products may not be safe and some may cause dehydration while their overuse may cause loss of electrolytes. Therefore one has to take them carefully.
- Less food
Though excess calories are not good for health, their complete absence is also harmful. Some starve themselves by taking less food.
This may cause damage to body muscles and lead to the weakening of the metabolism. Fewer than the necessary quantity of calories can cause unhealthy weight loss.
- Too much exercise
While regular exercise is good and also essential for healthy weight loss too much and unregulated exercise can cause damage to the body.
This may also lead to exhaustion, dehydration, and loss of electrolytes and may thus prove to be counterproductive.
- Less fat intake
It is a common belief that fats are responsible for weight gain. It is only partially true. Good fat is essential for good health and a small amount of its consumption is essential.
A total absence of fat leads to hunger pangs and food craving which ultimately forces one to overeat which results in unhealthy weight gain.
- Smoking and Drinking
Smoking and drinking are always bad for health in any case.
These bad habits defeat the purpose of either losing weight or gaining healthy weight and need no elaboration about their harmful effect on physical, mental health, and even social perspective.
When one is facing a medical problem of unexplained weight loss, take fruits which may help ease the problem.
These are as follows:
It is said that 100 grams of avocado fruits contain 160 calories which add to healthy fat in one’s body.
Grapes contain sugar and fats and help in weight gain. 100 grams of grapes contain 67 calories and 16 grams of sugar desirable for weight gain.
One banana contains 150 calories equivalent to 37.5 grams of carbohydrate.
Take this fruit in moderation to one fruit a day. Since it is low in the glycaemic index it is good as a snack. –
A ripe mango is rich in sugar content and helps in restoring weight but should always be taken in moderation under medical advice.
Taking precautions, timely medical advice and eating a healthy diet can help to prevent or cure the concerning weight loss.