The Official Body Mass Index Chart Wasn’t Big Enough to Contain America’s Childhood Obesity Problem


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released expanded body mass index charts for children.


American kids are off-the-charts obese.


The updated versions of the BMI charts for boys and girls ages 2-20, released Thursday, raised the BMI scale to 60, up from 37 on the old chart.

“Among children of the same age and sex, overweight is defined on CDC growth charts as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile. Obesity is defined as having a BMI at or above the 95th percentile,” according to the CDC.

  • More than 22% of Americans ages 2-19 were obese in August 2020, up from 19.3% a year earlier, per CDC estimates.
  • The CDC attributed the jump to pandemic-era “school closures, disrupted routines, increased stress and less opportunity for physical activity and proper nutrition.”
  • “I think everybody’s shifting upward,” Dr. Sandra Hassink, medical director of the American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight, told NPR in August 2021. “Kids that were in the healthy weight range are shifting upward. Children with obesity are shifting upward and children with severe obesity are shifting upward.”


Beyond associated health problems, rising childhood obesity has hurt America’s military readiness.

  • “Only about 23% of kids between 16 and 21 are able to meet our standards, and some of that, frankly, is reflective of the problem that we have in our country with obesity,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told CNBC in October.
By We'll Do It Live