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Interpreting the Numbers

Once the BMI number is determined, it can be interpreted for adults using standard weight status categories that are the same for all ages and for both men and women. The standard weight status categories associated with BMI ranges for adults are shown below:
 
 
BMI
Weight Status
Below 18.5
Underweight
18.5 – 24.9
Normal
25.0 – 29.9
Overweight
30.0 and Above
Obese
 
One criteria used to diagnose anorexia is a BMI under 17.5.
 
For children and teens, after determining the BMI, the number is plotted on the BMI-for-age growth charts (for either girls or boys) to obtain a percentile ranking. The percentile indicates the relative position of the child's BMI number among children of the same sex and age.
 
BMI-for-age weight status categories and the corresponding percentiles are shown in the following table:
 
Weight Status Category
Percentile Range
Underweight
Less than the 5th percentile
Healthy weight
5th percentile up to the 84th percentile
At risk of overweight
85th to less than the 95th percentile
Overweight
Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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