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Are a BMI of 16 and a BMI of 16.5 too low?

Are a BMI of 16 and a BMI of 16.5 too low?

If you want to know what a BMI of 16 looks like and whether it’s too skinny, then this body mass index article is for you.

While body mass index is just a screening tool for detecting people who might be at risk of certain health problems, it’s likely that those with a 16 BMI could benefit from increasing their body weight because they don’t have an ideal BMI.

Related Body Mass Index Guides:

What does a BMI of 16 look like?

A woman measuring her stomach to see if she has a 16 BMI

A BMI of 16 looks skinny for both females and males and may be accompanied by minimal muscle mass and a low body fat percentage.

Because a body mass index of 16 is underweight, people with a 16 BMI might have very visible veins and muscle separation. However, they are unlikely to have much muscle mass and will probably have very thin limbs.

A person of any height can have a BMI of 16, but it’s likely more common for taller and medium-height individuals because it can be harder to fill out your frame, so to speak, when you’re fairly tall. 

Is a BMI of 16 dangerous?

A thin man who has a 16.5 BMI

While it’s true that those who are underweight often have worse health than normal-weight individuals, a particular BMI score—unless it’s really low or really high—is no guarantee of poor (or good) health. [1]

Still, most medical professionals would say that a BMI of 16 is more dangerous for older adults because this population group often struggles to regain weight when they lose it, which can weaken their immune system and cause osteoporosis.

Obviously, since low body weights can be a sign of malnutrition, a BMI of 16 could also be considered dangerous for younger people if they’re consuming insufficient calories to support their body’s energy requirements or if they’re failing to nourish their bodies with the necessary nutrients.

Common BMI 16 results and their meaning

body mass index written on a weighing scale

When you put your physical stats into a BMI calculator, you might well get a round number. Most of the time, however, you’ll get a decimal value such as 16.3 or 16.5.

16.1 BMI

Those with a 16.1 BMI have a body mass index score that’s approximately 2.5 BMI points into the underweight category. A person with a BMI of 16.1 may be encouraged to gain weight to prevent health problems in the future.

16.2 BMI

A BMI of 16.2 is comfortably into the underweight classification and may need to be increased by a few BMI points if an individual wants to improve their long-term health.

16.3 BMI

If you have a BMI of 16.3, then you’re classed as underweight and potentially even severely underweight.

16.4 BMI

If you’ve got a 16.4 BMI, then you could be risking your long-term health by being too thin for a person of your height.

16.5 BMI

A 16.5 BMI is around two BMI points below the normal cut-off. As such, if you have a BMI of 16.5, then you might need to consume more calories so that your body has enough energy to function optimally.

16.6 BMI

A BMI of 16.6 is over 13 points lower than average for both men and women and is a sign that a person has an excessively low body weight.

16.7 BMI

Those who have a BMI of 16.7 are definitely on the skinny side and will likely have low levels of both muscle mass and body fat.

16.8 BMI

A BMI of 16.8 is underweight and, if it gets any lower, may then be considered severely underweight. As such, it’s often important to start gaining weight slowly to prevent further body weight decreases, especially for older adults. [2]

16.9 BMI

If you have a 16.9 BMI, then you’re roughly 1.5 BMI points into the underweight body mass index classification and will likely be encouraged to gain weight so that your body can function optimally from a physical health perspective.

The verdict: Is a BMI of 16 good or bad?

While some people actually want a low body weight in order to be skinny, it’s generally considered bad to have a BMI of 16 because being too skinny can lead to poor health, especially over the long term.

Your body requires enough calories and nutrients to carry out its many complex and diverse biological processes, most of which we don’t even realize are happening.

As such, being too thin and having a 16 BMI can often lead to malnutrition on some level, which is why healthy weight gain is often recommended for BMI 16 individuals.


  1. DeSalvo, K. B., Jones, T. M., Peabody, J., McDonald, J., Fihn, S., Fan, V., He, J., & Muntner, P. (2009). Health care expenditure prediction with a single item, self-rated health measure. Medical care47(4), 440–447.
  2. Newman, A. B., Yanez, D., Harris, T., Duxbury, A., Enright, P. L., Fried, L. P., & Cardiovascular Study Research Group (2001). Weight change in old age and its association with mortality. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society49(10), 1309–1318.