Approximately 89% of US adults with Down syndrome (DS) are considered overweight or obese (BMI >25m/kg2). Individuals with DS have physiological factors that may contribute to the high rates of obesity and may prevent successfully weight loss. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of a multi-component 18-month weight management intervention to produce clinically significant weight loss (>5%) in adults with DS and to compare changes in weight between adults with DS and those with other intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).


149 adults with obesity and with IDD, including DS, and their study partners were randomized to an 18-mos. effectiveness trial consisting of 6-mos. of weight loss and 12-mos. of weight maintenance. All participants were asked to follow one of two reduced calorie diets and increase their physical activity. All participants were assigned a health educator, who held monthly at-home visits with them and their study partner to provide feedback related to intervention compliance. There were no differences in weight loss between the two diet groups, thus for the purpose of this analysis all participants were grouped together.


Of the 149 participants who enrolled in the trial, 26 (17%) were diagnosed with DS (57% female, mean age = 36 yrs.). In participants with DS clinically significant weight loss was seen at both 6 mos. (-5.9% +/-5.5) and 18 mos. (-5.7% +/-9.8). No significant differences in weight loss were seen between those with DS and those without DS at 6 mos.(p=0.690) or 18 mos.(p=0.609).


Although individuals with DS have physiological factors that contribute to obesity, weight management interventions designed for individuals with IDD are effective in adults with DS and can produce clinically significant weight loss.