Down Syndrome and Obesity Management

Down syndrome and Obesity: According to a survey conducted to ascertain the quantum of health hazards exposed to Down syndrome children, adolescents. It was identified that 50% of them were obese and had the risk of developing obesity and obesity-related health issues in the future. Out of the number of causes, earmarked, genetics, social, environmental, and dietary patterns played a significant role in influencing Down syndrome children’s health.

It becomes difficult for parents to manage these children if they are obese. Medical help taken in the earlier stages when they are overweight can help them to reduce weight.

But if neglected in the overweight stage, the children may land into obesity and then morbid obesity, where physical help like lifting and carrying becomes difficult. In such cases, Bariatric surgery/weight loss surgery will help the child to reduce weight and get back to normal weight. This helps the children carry out their activities and allows parents to cater to their children’s day-to-day needs, wherein physical help like lifting, carrying is required. Bariatric surgery in these cases involves a lot of support from the parents and all who are in close contact with the child, as there is a strict protocol to be followed in the initial months. This we call Teamwork. It entails continuous contact with the treating doctor as and when required.

Down Syndrome: Down Syndrome is a genetic abnormality caused by an extra copy of a chromosome present inside every cell’s nucleus in the body.

A normal baby is born with 46 chromosomes, 23 inherited from the mother and 23 from the father. A Down syndrome baby is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21, medically termed as Trisomy 21. This extra copy of chromosome 21 is a genetic anomaly that tampers with the baby’s regular life cycle pattern leading to growth and mental retardation.

Characteristics: Down syndrome children usually have a low IQ and are slower to speak, which are associated with speech problems. They all have similar physical features, which are characterized by almond-shaped slanting upwards eyes, flattened face especially the bridge of the nose, short neck, protruding tongue, small ears, hands, fingers, and feet, tiny white spots on the iris, palmer crease, loose joints, weak muscles tone, shorter in height and usually overweight.

Types: Down Syndrome is a common chromosomal condition with an alarming ratio of 1 in every 7oo babies born in the USA. There are three types of Down syndrome, Trisomy 21 ( 3 copies of chromosomes) accounting for 95%, Translocation Down syndrome ( a whole extra chromosome present )accounting for 3%, and Mosaic Down syndrome (mixture with some cells having three copies and some with typical two copies of chromosomes) accounting for 2% of the total down syndrome population in the world.

Health Problem: Down syndrome children and adults are more likely to acquire health issues that include Thyroid problems, Constipation, Coeliac disease, diabetes, gut structural problem, infection of the chest, breathing problems leading to temporary stops during sleep, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, ear infection, hearing loss, dental problems, eye, nose, throat, allergies to certain foods causing wheezing, runny nose colic pain, immunity problems cardiac issues and a string of obesity-related health issues.

Dietary pattern: It is required to administer a specific diet plan for Down syndrome children to suffice their daily nourishment. It is necessary to calculate the nutritional value of the food consumed, the amount consumed, and its frequency to keep the child healthy.

Down syndrome children encounter problems related to the intake, digestion, and absorption of food, thus ruining their dietary habits. Also, the irregular muscle tone in the Down syndromes leads to constipation, and the gut abnormalities may call for surgical attention.

Growth Rate: The growth rate of Down syndrome children is slower than normal children and adolescents, resulting in a shorter body stature and a smaller head circumference than their peers.

Metabolic Rate: Studies revealed that their resting metabolic rate was 10 to 15% lower than normal people, directly responsible for gaining weight.

Diabetes:  It has been identified that Down syndrome children embraced an enhanced risk of acquiring diabetes after a certain age due to the inclination for weight gain and visceral fat deposition.

Leptin:  Leptin is that hormone, which stands out with a big stop signal board when you are continuously eating. It is the hormone secreted to suppress hunger and maintain body weight. A study found that Down syndrome children have a higher percentage of fats in their body, a higher body mass index, and surprisingly higher levels of leptin. This contradictory factor puzzled the researchers. Many experiments were further carried out to identify the reason by adjusting the body’s fats, but unfortunately, there was no significant change in the high levels of leptin. The results suggested that due to genetic anomalies, Down syndrome develop severe leptin resistance, tempting them to eat continuously. This leptin hormone has a role in increasing the risk of obesity in Down syndrome children and adults.

Heart Problems: Statistics say that up to 50% of Down syndrome babies are born with congenital heart defects starting from a murmur to severe cardiovascular problems calling for surgical intervention.

Social and Environmental: Majority of the Down syndrome children and adults are good at developing social skills and appropriate social behaviour regardless of a few who may be challenging to handle.

Talents: God has gifted all the Down syndrome people with talents starting from creative art, painting, specific sports, and dancing.

Special Schools: As with Down syndrome, children are usually slow learners and encounter problems in learning; special schools exist globally to fulfil these requirements. It is always advised to put these children in special schools, where teaching and proper guidance are offered for their total development.

Advice: As the Down syndrome population is more susceptible to acquire a sea of health hazards, it is advisable to maintain a healthy diet plan, regular health check-ups with all the concerned doctors, regular exercise to keep a good healthy body and mind, and finally not to forget to consult the concerned doctor for weight loss solutions.

Take home message: See the world through my eyes.


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