Children’s body mass index (BMI) growth trajectories are associated with adult health outcomes, and vary by geography and epoch. Understanding these trajectories could help to identify high risk children and thus support improved health outcomes. In this review, we compare and quantitatively analyse BMI level and trajectory data published since 2010. We characterise recent growth in children aged 4-11 years, an age range most frequently targeted for BMI intervention, yet less studied than young childhood or infancy.
Through searches in OVID, we identified 54 relevant texts which describe either post-2000 summary BMI values by age and gender in cohorts with sample sizes of over 1000 children, or the results of latent class analyses of BMI trajectories within the 4-11 year age range. Population level median growth curves were projected and visualised as weighted means. These BMI curves, based on data from 729,692 children, can be visually clustered into ‘high’ and ‘low’ charting groups with extreme outlying values. Within populations, latent class analyses converge on 3-4 individual child trajectories, two of which predispose adult overweight. These growth pathways diverge early in childhood, yet are not effectively distinguished via isolated BMI measurements taken between 4 and 11 years, meaning some high risk children may currently be poorly identified.