Alert

Unhealthy Weight in Children

Body mass index (BMI), which measures weight in relation to height, is used to identify a possible weight problem for a child. A child with a BMI in the 86th to 94th percentile on a growth chart is usually considered overweight. A child who has a BMI below the 5th percentile may be considered underweight. Children grow at a different rates. Your doctor can tell you if your child's weight is a concern.

In some cases, a child may be overweight because he or she has a large amount of body fat (adipose tissue). But not all children with BMIs in the 86th to 94th percentile have too much body fat. For instance:

  • A child who has grown consistently at a higher percentile for most of his or her life may just be bigger than other children of the same age due to genetics.
  • Before and during puberty, it is normal for children to have a significant gain in weight before beginning to grow in height. This can temporarily increase a child's BMI.
  • Children who are very muscular (for instance, children who are very active in sports) may have a higher BMI but have normal or even low amounts of body fat.

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