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Overweight and obesity in people with learning disabilities

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Sara Patience examines the risk of excess weight in people with learning disabilities and how to manage it

Rates of obesity are higher in the learning disabled population that the general population.1 The subsequent risks to health are greater in individuals with a learning disability, who may already have underlying health conditions, yet the uptake of health surveillance is lower than the general population.2 Health professionals who come into contact with people with learning disabilities should be aware of these increased health risks and be able to offer advice on a healthy diet and make use of available easy read information. This article discusses the prevalence and risk of obesity in the learning disabled community and looks at simple weight assessment and advice for a healthy diet.

What is a learning disability?

Learning disabilities are described as ‘a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday tasks, which affects someone for their whole life’.3 Around 2% of the population have a learning disability.4

Internationally, and in academic literature, the phrase ‘intellectual disability’ is used, which refers ‘to a significant general impairment in intellectual functioning that is acquired during childhood’.5 This article uses the term ‘learning disability’ (LD) unless referring to a previous study that has selected participants based on screening for intellectual disability.

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