Take Some Pressure Off Yourself. Too Skinny is Bad for Your Bones

too skinnyYes, here at 9Health, we talk all the time of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. But we mean it when we say, “healthy weight.” We don’t want anyone to be underweight either.

Oh, the Pressure!

We all feel pressure to achieve the perfect body. Not just women, men too. We all feel it. But good news, here’s why don’t want to try to achieve those (probably photoshopped) images of the ideal body anyway – it’s bad for your bones.

Last spring, we held a pop-up health fair at Stanley Marketplace. Volunteering her time was Pharmacist Danielle Fixen with the University of Colorado. She was running one of our machines that measures body fat and BMI. That’s when the writer of this blog post decided she would be brave and do it. As we waited for the results to pop up, Fixen mentioned what the healthy range was. Mine was right in the middle. Well, I must’ve made a face because she immediately said, “That’s a good thing! You don’t want your body fat to be at the low end because that’s bad for your bones.”

Say what?

Recently, I reached back out to Fixen to learn more.

Interview with Pharmacist Danielle Fixen

9Health: Being too skinny is bad for our bones. Why is that?

Fixen: The National Osteoporosis Foundation, along with other guidelines, include “excessive thinness” as a risk factor for osteoporosis and fractures. There are specific nutritional elements that are required throughout life, which are important for bone health and maintenance of bone mass. These elements include calcium and phosphorus, along with vitamin D. The issue with being extremely thin is that your body is likely not receiving adequate amounts of these elements to create or maintain bone mass. When these elements are in short supply, the body will remove them from the bone and use them in other vital systems.

It is also important to know that peak bone mass typically occurs in the 3rd decade of life, which is also the peak incidence for anorexia nervosa. In pre-menopausal women with anorexia nervosa, studies have shown that low body weight and an absence of menses increase the risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, research has found that having a low body mass index (BMI), specifically when post-menopausal, is associated with low bone mass and increased bone loss. One study specifically found that postmenopausal women with a BMI between 16-23 had a 2-fold increase in bone loss compared to postmenopausal women with a BMI greater than 23.

9Health: How does one know if they should gain weight for bone health?

Fixen: I think the important consideration is to maintain a healthy weight and also participate in regular weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises to maintain and improve bone strength. While gaining weight is not a specific recommendation, it is important to ensure a healthy diet including adequate calcium and vitamin D intake.

If you have a family history of osteoporosis, it is important to try to have a bone healthy lifestyle and be conscious of your BMI, especially if it is low. If you are unable to maintain a diet with enough calcium and vitamin D, dietary supplements are recommended and available OTC.

9Health: Should everyone be concerned about this or should you be more concerned if there are other bone related health issues going on (maybe osteoporosis)?

Fixen: Men and women should think about their bone health, especially as they get older, as both can have osteoporosis. If there is a family history of osteoporosis or other bone related conditions, there is an increased risk of bone-related issues.

Having a healthy lifestyle throughout life will help decrease bone loss and the risk of osteoporosis. A bone healthy lifestyle includes, but is not limited to, adequate calcium and vitamin D consumption (varies depending on age) by eating a well-balanced diet (grains, fruits, vegetable, dairy, meat or beans), weight bearing and strength exercises (30 minutes per day), cessation of smoking, and limited alcohol consumption (recommendation varies for men and women).

There you have it. When it comes to weight, it’s more than our pant size. Don’t try to be too skinny. If you’re exercising and eating healthy as your doctor recommends, stop trying to achieve what society deems desirable. Just as you love and accept those around you for who they are and what they look like, you might be surprised to realize they all feel the same about you. #SelfLove