Making food choices at a buffet

Weight Management for Adults with Down Syndrome

Individuals with Down syndrome have a higher likelihood of being obese than their typically developing peers.  Sometimes it is the result of hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough of certain hormones. If there are new symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as increased sleepiness, confusion, or mood changes, the individual’s primary care doctor should consider ordering a blood test to check thyroid function. It has also been suggested that people with Down syndrome may have a lower level of metabolism, i.e., their bodies may burn fewer calories and store more. 

Jack Kelly working in the kitchen

More generally, though, weight management issues in individuals with Down syndrome are often due to the intake of too many calories in relation to the level of physical activity. Strategies for treating and preventing obesity involve: 

  • Eating smaller portion sizes 

  • Using healthy ingredients that increase bulk (like fiber, fruits, and vegetables) 

  • Increasing water intake 

  • Eating fewer snacks between meals 

  • Empowering adults to monitor their own weight 

  • Involving supervisors at work and school on the treatment plan 

  • Preparing meals at home 

  • Not using food as a reward 

  • Introducing a daily exercise routine that is appropriate to the person’s interests and skills 

If there is no underlying medical condition contributing to an individual’s weight, then he or she can use the same strategies anyone else would to lose weight: exercise, portion control, and healthy food choices.   

Additional Resources

External Resources

  • Special Olympics
    Offers year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities
  • National Center on Physical Activity and Disability
    Promotes health among people with disabilities by providing advocacy, services and programs


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