advertisement
Updated 11 February 2013

Weight loss

Significant weight loss is defined as the loss of 4.5kg or more than 5 percent of baseline body weight over a period of six to 12 months.

0

Definition


Significant weight loss is defined as the loss of 4.5kg or more than 5 percent of baseline body weight over a period of six to 12 months. Weight loss may be voluntary or involuntary, and may be associated with changes in appetite.

Causes


All form of weight loss are basically due to energy requirements or expenditure exceeding energy intake, in other words, a state of negative energy balance. Observed weight loss may be due to the loss of body fluids, fat or muscle. The healthy, desirable form is the loss of body fat, with preservation of other tissues.

Intentional weight loss may be for increased fitness, improved appearance, or for medical reasons, such as avoiding the possible complications of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis or stroke. Various techniques are used for this, the best being a combination of:

  • Kilojoule restriction,
  • Healthy eating patterns,
  • Increased physical activity, and
  • Weight-loss surgery in extreme cases.

Excess weight loss is not encouraged, as it is associated with medical problems such as decreased immunity to infections, osteoporosis, hormonal imbalances, decreased muscle strength and even sudden death.

Involuntary weight loss is associated with many disorders:

  • Hyperthyroidism;
  • Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus;
  • Malabsorption states;
  • Underlying cancer;
  • Chronic illness of any kind, like infections or Aids;
  • Oral/dental problems like mouth sores, braces, tooth or gum infections;
  • Substance abuse like alcohol, nicotine and opiates;
  • Central stimulants like ingredients in medication; and
  • Psychiatric conditions like depression.

Diagnosis


The cause for the weight loss must be determined. A good history and clinical examination may make the diagnosis of an underlying cause, which is then confirmed by tests such as blood tests, or imaging (X-rays scans).

Treatment


Those with voluntary weight loss do not seek treatment as a rule.
Treatment of involuntary weight loss will depend on the underlying cause identified.

(Dr AG Hall)

 
More in Medical
Hip pain
advertisement

Get a quote

advertisement

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Live healthier

Too Tired? »

20 signs of burnout Staying active reduces stress 10 ways to have a healthier work day

Why you're exhausted

Lost your mojo? Here are 5 surprising energy drainers, plus the easy fixes that will help put the pep back in your step!

Kick the habit »

Cancer doesn't make smokers to quit Non-smokers don't use e-cigs Hookah contains benzene

How South Africans quit smoking

We asked ex-smokers to share their secrets to successfully quitting smoking. Find out how they managed to kick the habit.