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

Low Carb Diets

March 2020 | Brian Chicoine, MD - Medical Director, Adult Down Syndrome Center

We received a question about low carb diets. 

I am looking for information on helping my 28-year-old daughter with Down syndrome lose some weight. We both started a low carb diet a couple weeks ago and that seems to be going pretty well. Is there any reason why she can't continue this diet long term? 

MyPlate icon from choosemyplate.govEveryone has unique health and nutrition needs. However, we are cautious about recommending any diet that restricts a particular nutrient category or only contains one food category. Long-term sustainability of that kind of diet can be challenging for people with and without Down syndrome. Additionally, essential nutrients may be excluded from the person's diet. 

This Mayo Clinic article provides more information about low carb diets. In addition to the potential problems with a low carb diet mentioned in the article, constipation is an issue for many individuals with Down syndrome on low carb diets. 

This is what I recommend for individuals with Down syndrome I see at the Adult Down Syndrome Center: 

  • Eat a balanced diet that contains fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and dairy. 

  • Reduce processed foods, including processed carbs. 

    • One good rule for grains is, 'If it is white, it isn't right." That refers to sugar, white rice, white bread (processed wheat), and pasta made with white (processed) wheat. 

    • Include "one ingredient foods" or foods with only a few ingredients in your diet. These are foods that would have only one or a few ingredient(s) on the food label. In general, these foods tend to be "less processed." Examples include an apple, grilled chicken, water, plain tea, carrots, milk, and whole grain breads (although they will often have additional ingredients for preservatives). 

I also encourage individuals with Down syndrome and their families to watch our series of videos on the food groups

Additional information is available in our article Weight Management in Adults with Down Syndrome.

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We offer a variety of resources for people with Down syndrome, their families and caregivers and the professionals who care for and work with them. Search our collection of articles, webinars, videos, and other educational materials.

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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.