Weight loss • Reasons for sudden weight loss

The term weight loss refers first of all to an intentional or unintentional reduction in body weight. Losing weight is a desirable effect during a diet. On the other hand, unintentional strong and sudden weight loss is a warning signal and can indicate diseases or parasites.

Weight loss: What are the causes behind sudden weight loss
© Getty Images/Karl Tapales

Body weight is a concern for most people in Western countries, especially when overweight is present and excess pounds on the abdomen and thighs are to be reduced. Numerous diets, exercise and lifestyle recommendations aim to successfully and permanently reduce excess body fat.

Unintentional weight loss, on the other hand, can also be the result of an underlying medical condition. This is especially true if the reduction in body weight is rapid and for no apparent reason, such as a diet change or increased physical activity. In the event of an inexplicable weight loss, the causes should always be medically clarified.

Article content at a glance:

Unwanted Weight Loss: Causes of Weight Loss

Note: This article is about unintentional weight loss. On the other hand, you will receive all information about the desired weight loss as a result of diets or a change in eating habits here.

Causes of unwanted weight loss

In most cases, weight loss is a desired effect based on changes in eating habits and lifestyle, such as a diet or increased physical activity. Unintentional reductions in body weight, on the other hand, are a possible sign of physical or mental illness and should be examined by a doctor.

Weight loss can be due to:

These symptoms can be the first warning signs


  • starving
  • one-sided or unsuitable nutrition that leads to deficiencies (e.g. with unsuitable diets)

Gastrointestinal diseases and indigestion

Problems in the mouth/tooth area


  • Krebs in the area of ​​the gastrointestinal tract (oral cavity, larynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine), which impairs food intake, food transport or food utilization
  • Leber-, Gallengangs- or pancreatic cancer
  • advanced stages of any other type of cancer

Hormone disorders

Mental and psychosomatic diseases, nervous diseases

Severe weight loss: When weight loss should be clarified by a doctor

Significant weight loss for no apparent reason should always be evaluated by a doctor. The possible physical causes of the weight loss must be recorded as well as mental illnesses or unsuitable eating habits.

To diagnose weight loss, the medical history is first collected in an interview (anamnese) and specifically recorded the exact change in body weight. Pre-existing conditions or events that could be related to the current weight loss are particularly important. The skill

  • changed lifestyle,
  • previous operations in abdomen,
  • liver or kidney disease,
  • metabolic disorders,
  • mental illness,
  • taking medication or
  • Travel to exotic countries (parasite infestation).

In addition, a weight log is often created in which the development of body weight is continuously entered. The physical examination then records the exact extent of the weight loss, its possible physical causes and other existing diseases.

Discussion and examination often lead to an initial suspicion of the cause of the weight loss.

Blood tests on the general state of health, sugar and fat metabolism as well as hormone levels, liver and kidney function provide further information on possible causes of weight loss.

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On this basis, further imaging or examinations aimed at the function of individual organs are then carried out. For example, by a Glukosetoleranztest to be clarified whether Diabetes present. Ultrasonicorgan reflections (e.g. of the stomach or intestines) and three-dimensional X-rays or magnetic field images help in the search for inflammatory processes and possibly cancerous tumors.

Last but not least, psychological aspects can also play a role. Discussions or special tests can give indications of depression and psychosomatic illnesses.

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