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Disabil Health J. 2016 Jul;9(3):392-8. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2015.12.003. Epub 2015 Dec 17.

Intellectual disability is associated with increased risk for obesity in a nationally representative sample of U.S. children.

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Research Center for Health Care Decision-making, Inc., 706 E Hartwell Lane, Wyndmoor, PA 19038, USA. Electronic address:
Tufts University School of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, 136 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02111, USA.
E.K. Shriver Center, UMass Medical School, Department of Family Medicine & Community Health, 465 Medford Street, Suite 500, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.
University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing and Perelman School of Medicine, Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4217, USA.
HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research, 8170 33rd Ave. S. Mail Stop 23301A, P.O. Box 1524, Bloomington, MN 55440-1524, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, UNC Chapel Hill, 101 Manning Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125, USA.



Data on obesity prevalence in children with intellectual disability (ID) are scarce.


We estimated rates of obesity among children aged 10-17 years with and without ID in a nationally representative dataset that included measures of child weight and ID status, as well as family meal frequency, physical activity, and sedentary behavior.


Chi-square tests compared prevalence of obesity, demographic and behavioral characteristics between children with and without ID as reported in the 2011 National Survey of Children's Health. Tests for interaction in logistic regression models determined whether associations between obesity and behavioral characteristics were different between children with/without ID.


Obesity prevalence for children with ID was 28.9% and 15.5% for children without ID. After adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity and poverty level, the odds ratio was significantly 1.89 times greater among children with ID than among those without ID (95% CI: 1.14 to 3.12). Among children with ID, 49.8% ate at least one meal with family members every day compared to 35.0% without ID (p < 0.002), and 49.5% with ID participated in frequent physical activity compared to 62.9% (p < 0.005). Prevalence of obesity was higher among all children who ate family meals every day compared to fewer days per week, and the effect was significantly more pronounced among those with ID (p = 0.05).


Prevalence of obesity among youth with ID was almost double that of the general population. Prospective studies are needed in this population to examine the impact of consistent family mealtimes and infrequent physical activity.


Children; Intellectual disability; Obesity prevalence

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