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Is BMI for children and teens the same as the BMI for adults?

No, BMI for children and teens is determined by using gender specific BMI-for-age growth charts. In children and teens, body mass index is used to assess underweight, overweight, and risk for overweight. Children's body fatness changes over the years as they grow. Also, girls and boys differ in their body fatness as they mature. This is why BMI for children, also referred to as BMI-for-age, is gender and age specific. BMI-for-age is plotted on gender specific growth charts. These charts are used for children and teens 2-20 years of age. For the 2000 CDC Growth Charts and Additional Information visit CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

Each of the CDC BMI-for-age gender specific charts contains a series of curved lines indicating specific percentiles. Healthcare professionals use the following established percentile cutoff points to identify underweight and overweight in children.

  • Underweight BMI-for-age < 5th percentile
  • At risk of overweight BMI-for-age 85th percentile to < 95th percentile
  • Overweight BMI-for-age > 95th percentile

What does it mean if my child is in the 75th percentile? The 75th percentile means that compared to children of the same gender and age, 75% have a lower BMI.

Resource: CDC


Candance Gabel, M.S. R.D., Assistant Program Director, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension







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Last update: Tuesday, December 09, 2008



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