BMI and Type 1 Diabetes

What is BMI?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a ratio calculated from weight and height. The BMI is a reliable indicator of body fatness for most children and teens. For children and teenagers, however the BMI is age and sex specific and is often referred to as BMI-for-age.

Metric BMI formula

BMI* = (Weight in Kilograms / (Height in Meters x Height in Meters)

Please enter your weight and height to check your BMI

Your Weight (in KG):

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Importance of BMI

The BMI is used to detect whether a child is healthy, underweight, overweight or obese.

How is BMI interpreted for children and teens?

After BMI is calculated for children and teens, the BMI number is plotted on the BMI-for-age growth charts (for either girls or boys) to obtain a percentile ranking. Percentiles** are also the most commonly used indicator to assess the growth of individual children.


  • Underweight- Less than the 5th percentile
  • Healthy weight- 5th percentile to less than the 85th percentile
  • Overweight- 85th to less than the 95th percentile
  • Obese - Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile


The interpretation of BMI-for-age differs by age and sex so if the children are not exactly the same age and of the same sex, the BMI numbers have different meanings.

Children with diabetes and BMI

Being overweight or being underweight is not good for any one. For children with type 1 diabetes, it is more important as weight can influence diabetes and diabetes can influence weight.

Being underweight and Type 1 diabetes

  • Most children when diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are underweight as undiagnosed or untreated type 1 diabetes can result in weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite. Once diagnosed and treated properly, their weight usually returns to normal levels.
  • If the child with type 1 diabetes is underweight, then is either due to uncontrolled diabetes or other hormonal problems like Hyperthyroidism or Celiac diseases.
  • However, If the child with diabetes is underweight but the sugar levels are controlled and there are no symptoms of other diseases, then it could be due to inappropriate calorie restricted diet.


Being overweight and Type 1 diabetes

  • Excess body weight can be a problem for children with type 1 diabetes. Some are overweight before they develop the disease. And some may become overweight after diagnosis, if they try to control blood sugar levels only by insulin and do not follow healthy eating and exercise habits.
  • Overweight children with type 1 diabetes can find it challenging to control blood sugar levels as excess body fat can make it difficult for the body to use insulin properly, which is similar to having a condition called as insulin resistance found in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Weight loss, a healthy diet, portion control and physical activity can reverse insulin resistance.


Maintaining a healthy optimal weight is good for everyone. Try to adopt a healthy lifestyle- have a healthy diet and regular exercise as family. By doing this, it will be easier for a child with diabetes to get to a healthy weight. Discuss with your doctor about your ideal BMI level and repeat the test at regular intervals, not more than six months apart.

Maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge for some children with diabetes. Here are some common problems to watch for:

  • Owing to misplaced fear about injection, sometimes the child or parents miss giving insulin or give less dosage of insulin, leading to an underweight child.
  • Some children with diabetes eat too many snacks since their parents are fearful of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). This can lead the child to be overweight.
  • Children are allowed to have sweets or candy with dose adjustment occasionally. However, parents or children sometime may consume large quantities of sweets and then take higher dosage of insulin, without consulting their doctor. This cycle can lead to excessive weight gain.

By following the doctor's advice about food and exercise, children can reach and maintain a healthy weight wherein they can be more in control of their diabetes and health. When children with diabetes maintain a healthy weight, they have more energy and find diabetes management easier.




When you / your child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, what was the best source of information on living with diabetes?
Diabetes educator or nursing staff
Social worker in clinics
Online information from websites
Social media networks
Parents of other children (Peer group support)

Learn about type 1 diabetes

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