Why Is It Important To Control BMI In Your Teenage Years?

Having a healthy body mass index (BMI) is important across the board – and this holds true for teenagers too. BMI is a simple tool that helps to estimate a healthy body weight based on your height, indicating whether you are of normal weight or underweight, overweight, or obese. Although BMI cannot be used as the sole or final diagnostic tool – owing to the variations in body types and the distribution of muscle and bone mass – it still serves as a reliable indicator of body fat and as a screening tool.1 According to a new study, a higher BMI in adolescence, even in the normal range, is strongly associated with increased cardiovascular mortality in adulthood.2

Consequences Of Adolescent Obesity

If the weight of a child is 20% higher than the ideal weight in that age, gender, and height group, the child is considered to be obese. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the years 2003–2004, 17.1% of children and teens aged 2–19 years (over 12 and a half million young people) were overweight.3

Adolescents who are obese are at an increased risk for various health conditions.

Type 2 Diabetes

According to a study on adolescent health, the risk of developing diabetes was particularly high in adults who were obese as adolescents relative to those with adult-onset obesity.4 The study highlighted the need to address adolescent obesity in order to reduce diabetes risk.


A study by Black et al. suggests that a higher BMI among youth contributes to

the development of asthma and may also lead to more severe asthma. Researchers also found that for every unit increase on the BMI scale, the risk of developing asthma increases by 55 percent.5 Thus, obese teenagers are not only more likely to develop asthma, but they may also be more prone to severe asthma as adults.6

Cardiovascular Risk

Obesity in adolescence is associated with various risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. According to a study by Manu Raj, childhood and adolescent obesity were found to have a strong influence on the structure and function of the heart, mainly of the left ventricle. The study also

pointed out that “obesity compromises pulmonary function and increases the risk of sleep-disordered breathing and obstructive sleep apnea. Neglecting childhood and adolescent obesity will compromise the cardiovascular health of the pediatric population and is likely to result in a serious public health crisis in future.”7 8

Psychosocial Risks

Being overweight as an adolescent has been found to have a detrimental effect on a young person’s self -esteem, self-image, and self-concept, which may lead to depression and, in turn, put an individual at risk for the onset of obesity later in life. Research also suggests the increased risk of low self-regard and impaired quality of life in obese adolescents. Other repercussions could include reduced physical activity, body dissatisfaction, and eating disorders. Adolescents also tend to

bear the brunt of body shaming and weight-based teasing or bullying.9

What Is The Ideal BMI For Teens?

The healthy BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9 in adults. For a child or an adolescent, the BMI calculation is elucidated differently and there is no “normal” BMI range. Children and teens are constantly growing, and their height and weight vary during the growth and development stage, as does their body fat. This makes it difficult to pin down an exact healthy BMI range. Thus, for this age group, “BMI percentiles” are used, comparing the weight of a teenager to that of others who are of the same age and gender. For example, a teen with an 85th percentile BMI is heavier than 85 out of 100 other teens of his or her age.

BMI Percentiles For Teens Fall Into Four Ranges

  • Less than the 5th percentile is considered underweight
  • Between the 5th percentile and less than the 85th percentile is at a healthy weight
  • In the 85th percentile to less than the 95th percentile is overweight
  • Equal to or greater than
    the 95th percentile is obese10