CDC expands BMI charts for severely obese children

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday released new child body mass index charts in response to the growing obesity crisis in the United States

The previous BMI chart for children aged 2 to 19 years published in 2000 is based on data from 1963 to 1980, but childhood obesity and severe obesity has increased significantly since the 1980s. More than 4.5 million children and adolescents suffered from severe obesity in 2018, according to the CDC.

BMI is calculated using a mathematical formula that measures body fat, generally by dividing a person’s height by their weight. For adults, a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, or 111 pounds. to about 150 pounds. for someone who is 5’5″. At 5’10”, a healthy BMI is between 129lbs. and 175 pounds. For adults 20 years and older, a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

The previous charts for children did not go beyond a BMI of 37. The new charts go up to a BMI of 60 and measure whether it is within healthy parameters based on a percentile measured against other children of the same age and sex.

“Prior to today’s release, growth charts did not stretch high enough to represent BMI for the increasing number of children with severe obesity,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

The BMI for children up to the age of 20 runs along a sliding range depending on age and gender. Under the new guidelines, a healthy child BMI can range from about 13 to about 17 for a 6-year-old girl or boy to a range of about 18 to about 26 for a 20-year-old woman.

The expanded charts will help health care providers work with families to treat children suffering from obesity, Hacker said. The 2000 BMI charts are still used for children who are not obese, according to the CDC.

Obesity among children has increased dramatically over the past 40 years. During the four-year period to 1980, 5.5% of children aged 2 to 19 years were obese and 1.3% were severely obese. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2018, 19.3% of children were obese and 6.1% were severely obese.

Childhood obesity is defined as a BMI greater than 95% of children of the same age and sex, according to the CDC. Severe obesity is a BMI that is 120% above the 95th percentile.

Although children’s BMI is calculated using the same formula as adults, a healthy weight is measured relative to other children of the same age and sex. This is because children’s height and weight can vary significantly as they get older.

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