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How can losing too much weight be dangerous to my health?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
When your body does not receive enough calories or nutrition, it starts
breaking down muscles in all sorts of places. One of its last resorts is to metabolize heart muscle for energy. Losing heart muscle can cause your heart
rate to slow to fewer than fifty beats a minute; the average for a teen is 60 to 80 beats per minute. When that happens, you are at risk for sudden cardiac
death if you add exercise, caffeine, or other stimulants. In addition, the heart
can develop abnormal cardiac rhythms. The more life-threatening ones include
prolonged QTC syndrome, in which it takes too long for your heart
to repolarize after depolarizing, a process it needs to perform automatically
with every beat.

Other side effects include:

• loss of brain tissue (cerebral atrophy) - you may find yourself reading the
same paragraph over and over in order to comprehend it, or having a hard
time with short-term or long-term memory

• loss of bone tissue (called osteopenia) - this can give you little-old-lady
bones at a very young age, with significant risk for stress fractures (breaks
in the bones caused by overuse and weak bones)

• euthyroid sick syndrome. - in this condition, your thyroid gland, located
in the front of your lower neck, starts to slow down your metabolism if it
does not see enough energy intake

• delayed puberty (with loss of your ultimate adult height if you start young
enough) and loss of periods (amenorrhea), which can lead to loss of bone
tissue

• kidney failure, liver failure, other organ failure if you lose enough weight

• tons of cosmetic issues can occur also, including problems with teeth,
nails, hair (dry, thin, and brittle), and skin (drying out and bruising easily)
YOU: The Owner's Manual for Teens: A Guide to a Healthy Body and Happy Life

More About this Book

YOU: The Owner's Manual for Teens: A Guide to a Healthy Body and Happy Life

A few years ago, we wrote YOU: The Owner’s Manual, which taught people about the inner workings of their bodies—and how to keep them running strong. But you know what? There’s a big difference...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.