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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Hunger and Satiety in People with Down Syndrome

October 2019 | Brian Chicoine, MD - Medical Director, Adult Down Syndrome Center

Leptin is a hormone that contributes to appetite regulation and satiety. There is some data that show that individuals with Down syndrome have increased leptin levels which correlates with higher rates of obesity. This is consistent with reports of family members and caregivers who have shared that their loved ones with Down syndrome never seem to get full. 

Monitoring and managing portion sizes may help individuals with Down syndrome reach or maintain a healthy weight. Some tips are listed below. 

  • Start with smaller portion sizes. Put less food on your plate so you are not tempted to eat too much.

  • Use smaller plates so that the same amount of food takes up more space on the plate.

  • Consider buying plates that are divided into section for the different food types (protein, grains, fruits/veggies, etc.). This encourages us to eat a well-balanced meal with a variety of foods.

  • Avoid family-style dining. Instead, fill plates and then bring them to the table.

  • Eat meals in stages. Start with a larger portion of vegetables. Then move on to proteins and grains. 

  • Consider buying snacks that are pre-packaged in individual portions. Alternatively, take a serving of a snack and then put the larger container away to avoid overeating.

  • When dining at restaurants, ask for a box when you get your food so you can split your meal in half and bring leftovers home. 

  • Encourage a slower pace of eating. Eating too fast limits the body's ability to signal to the brain that we have eaten enough.

Additional tips are described in this article on weight management in adults with Down syndrome from our Resource Library.

More articles, videos, and handouts are available in the Nutrition and Weight section of our Resource Library.

Artioli T. Understanding obesity in Down's syndrome children opens in new windowJ Obes Metab. 2017;1(1)1-3. 
Bertapelli F, Pitetti K, Stamatis A, Guerra-Junior G. Overweight and obesity in children and adolescents with Down syndrome – Prevalence, determinants, consequences, and interventions: A literature review opens in new windowRes Dev Disabil. 2016;57:181-92. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2016.06.018
Maggie SN, O'Neill KL, Shults J, Stallings VA, Stettler N. Leptin levels among prepubertal children with Down syndrome compared with their siblings opens in new windowJ Pediatr. 2008;152(3):321-6. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.08.008

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.