Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Training Module: Using the BMI-for-Age Growth Charts

Advantages to Using BMI-for-age
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Tracking BMI-for-Age from Childhood and Adolescence to BMI in Adulthood

Bar chart example of tracking BMI-for-Age  from Birth to 18 Years

The tracking of BMI that occurs from childhood to adulthood is clearly shown in data from a study by Robert Whitaker and colleagues (Whitaker et al., 1997), who examined the probability of obesity among young adults in relation to the presence or absence of overweight at various times during childhood. For this study, childhood obesity was defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile for age and sex, and adult obesity as a mean BMI at or above 27.8 for men and 27.3 for women. For example, among children 10 to 15 years old, 10% of those with a BMI-for-age less than the 85th percentile were obese at age 25, whereas 75% of those with a BMI-for-age greater than or equal to the 85th percentile were obese as adults, and 80% of those with a BMI-for-age greater than or equal to the 95th percentile were obese at age 25. (The sample size for the study was 854.) From this study, it is clear that an overweight child is more likely than a child with a healthy weight to be obese as an adult.

Other studies have also shown that children with high BMI measurements are more likely to become obese adults than are thinner children (Deshmukh-Taskar et al., 2006; Harris et al., 2006; Guo et al., 1999;).