Obesity in Children with Down Syndrome: Background and Recommendations for Management

Julie Murray, MSN, BA, RN, CPNP; Patricia Ryan-Krause, MS, MSN, RN, CPNP


Pediatr Nurs. 2010;36(6):314-319. 

In This Article


Children with Down syndrome have rates of obesity as high, if not higher, than the general population. Research indicates children with Down syndrome develop obesity due to a variety of physiological mechanisms and behavioral tendencies. Because of the unique characteristics of the syndrome that contribute to the increased risk of developing obesity, nurses and other primary care providers must learn how to appropriately assess children with Down syndrome to identify abnormalities and ensure safe participation in sports activity. Taking pertinent histories, performing focused physical examinations, and ordering indicated laboratory tests serve as crucial aspects of quality patient care.

Exercise and nutrition-based interventions are important in preventing and reducing excess weight gain, but interventions should be individually tailored to the child with Down syndrome. Exercise recommendations consist of increasing movement through a variety of activities suitable to the child's physical and developmental abilities. Nutritional recommendations include decreasing caloric intake and reducing parental control over feeding practices. When counseling the family on both topics, it is important to address any barriers or stressors relating to diet and exercise. Together, the provider and family must problem solve to construct an agreeable plan. In particularly complex situations, providers should employ the help of other individuals, such as nutritionists, in the plan of care.

For a summary of interventions, see Table 3, and helpful Web sites can be found in Table 4. By working with families and collaborating with other health care professionals, children with Down syndrome will have an increased chance of living a healthier adult life.


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