Chapter 6 – Body Composition

Low Body Composition

Because more people experience excess body fat, the focus up to this point has been on health concerns related to overweight and obesity. However, fat is an essential component to a healthy body, and in rare cases, individuals have insufficient fat reserves, which can also be a health concern. The range of essential body fat for males is 3-5% and 8-12% for females. Attempting to, or intentionally staying in those ranges, through excessive exercise or calorie restriction is not recommended. Unfortunately, low body fat is often associated with individuals struggling with eating disorders, the majority of whom are females.

The main concern of low body fat relates to the number and quality of calories being consumed. Foods not only provide energy but also provide the necessary nutrients to facilitate vital body functions. For example, low amounts of iron from a poor diet can result in anemia. Potassium deficiencies can cause hypokalemia leading to cardiovascular irregularities. If adequate calcium is not being obtained from foods, bone deficiencies will result. Clearly, having low body fat, depending on the cause, can be equally as detrimental to health as having too much.

The health concerns most often linked to low body fat are:

  • Reproductive disorders
  • Infrequent or missing menstrual cycles
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Immune System disorders
  • Circulatory disorders
  • Premature death

In some cases, despite attempts to gain weight, individuals are unable to gain the pounds needed to maintain a healthy weight. In these cases, as in the case of excess fat, a holistic approach should be taken to determine if the low levels of body fat are adversely affecting health. These individuals should monitor their eating habits to assure they are getting adequate nutrition for their daily activity needs. Additionally, other lifestyle habits should be monitored or avoided, such as smoking, which may suppress hunger.

Additional reading on low body fat and its impact can be found on the website, on this page: At what body fat percent do you start losing your period?.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Health and Fitness for Life Copyright © 2019 by Dawn Markell and Diane Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book