Exploring the effectiveness of an 18-month weight management intervention in adults with Down syndrome using propensity score matching.

Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.1111/jir.12713


BACKGROUND: Down syndrome (DS) is one of the most common birth defects in the USA associated with high levels of overweight and obesity. Unique characteristics of adults with DS that may contribute to the high levels of obesity are high rates of hypothyroidism, poor muscle tone, altered gait and lower resting metabolic rate. Due to these factors, it is unknown if the same weight management interventions that are effective in adults with intellectual or developmental disability (IDD) without DS are as effective in those with DS. Therefore, the purpose of this secondary analysis was to compare changes in weight, diet and physical activity between participants with DS-related and non-DS-related IDD participating in an 18-month weight management trial.

METHODS: We used propensity score methods to adjust baseline variables of overweight/obese adults with and without DS participating in an 18-month effectiveness trial with 6 months weight loss and 12 months weight maintenance. Participants followed one of two reduced calorie diet plans, obtained 150 min of moderate-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) per week, and logged dietary intake daily. A health educator held monthly at-home visits with participants and a caregiver to give feedback on intervention compliance.

RESULTS: Out of the 124 participants that met the criteria for inclusion, 21 were diagnosed with DS and 103 with non-DS-related IDD. Twenty out of 21 participants with DS were successfully matched. Clinically significant weight loss was seen at 18 months in participants with DS (-5.2%) and non-DS-related IDD (-6.8%), with no difference between groups (P = 0.53). Significant reductions in energy intake were seen across the 18-month intervention in both DS and non-DS-related IDD groups with between-group differences at 12 months only (1119 vs. 1492 kcal/day, respectively; P = 0.003). Although MVPA did not increase in either group across the intervention, those with non-DS-related IDD had higher levels of MVPA compared with those with DS across 18 months.

CONCLUSION: Participants with DS lost a clinically significant amount of weight across the 18-month intervention. Compared with those with non-DS-related IDD, those with DS lost similar amounts of weight, had similar decreases in energy intake and participated in less MVPA across the 18-month intervention. Although individuals with DS have physiological factors that may contribute to obesity, weight management interventions designed for individuals with IDD may be equally effective in this population.

Journal Title

Journal of intellectual disability research : JIDR





First Page


Last Page



Down syndrome; diet; intellectual and developmental disability; physical activity; weight loss

Library Record