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Nutritional Concerns in Down Syndrome

Children with Down syndrome are more likely to develop obesity than the general population. Obesity is very much a concern, as it tends to follow an individual into adulthood, where it may place the person at risk for various health conditions (such as diabetes). Obesity is a result both of genetic predisposition (in "typical" populations as well) and chronic imbalance in energy intake (food consumption) vs. energy expenditure (activity). Research has elucidated some factors that may contribute to obesity in children with Down syndrome. Children with Down syndrome have a lower intracellular metabolic rate than "typical" peers. This decreased rate results in lower energy requirements. Additionally, children with Down syndrome typically have a smaller body size and rate of growth than unaffected peers, which further reduces their energy needs. Specific genes, present in a triple dose, may cause the decrease in intracellular metabolism seen.

It appears that in children with Down syndrome body height is more positively related to metabolic rate than is body weight. Thus, it is important to calculate caloric requirements for individuals with Down syndrome based upon their height. Children with Down syndrome should be educated concerning obesity and cardiovascular risk factors just as any other individual. It is also important to emphasize the importance of eating a balanced diet, with adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals, when instituting any caloric restrictions. Physical activity and exercise should be encouraged.

Farber, A.F.,Yanni, C.C., & Batshaw, M.L.(1997). Nutrition: Good and bad. In M.L. Batshaw (Ed.), Children with disabilities (pp.187). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing

Sustrova, M. and Pueschel, S.M.(1997). Nutritional Concerns. In S.M. Pueschel & M. Sustrova (Eds.), Adolescents with Down Syndrome: Toward a more fulfilling life (pp 17-19). Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes Publishing