Food Texture Preference for Kids with Down Syndrome
Published: 2022-08-29 - Updated: 2023-01-04
Author: Washington State University | Contact: wsu.edu
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes | DOI: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jtxs.12703
Additional References: Special Diets Publications
Synopsis: Paper examines what food textures children with Down syndrome liked or didn't like and how those preferences compared to typically developing children's preferences. In the U.S., one in 772 babies (around 5,100 each year) is born with Down syndrome, a genetic condition caused by a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. Feeding and swallowing impairments are common and critical predictors of increased death among those individuals. Studies like this can help parents and clinicians know what these children will most likely eat and help reduce choking incidences. If we can add nutritional value to those foods, we'll help many people.
- Down Syndrome
Down syndrome, Down's syndrome, or trisomy 21, is one of the most common chromosome abnormalities in humans. Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of the third copy of chromosome 21. There are three types of Down syndrome. People often can’t tell the difference between each type without looking at the chromosomes because the physical features and behaviors are similar. The average IQ of a young adult with Down syndrome is 50, equivalent to an eight- or nine-year-old's mental ability, but this can vary widely. People with Down syndrome have an increased risk of several other health problems, including a congenital heart defect, epilepsy, leukemia, thyroid diseases, and mental disorders. Down syndrome remains the most common chromosomal condition diagnosed in the United States. About 6,000 babies born in the United States each year have Down syndrome - about 1 in every 700 babies.
Eating behaviors in children with Down syndrome: Results of a home-use test.
Children with Down syndrome prefer food with a crispy, oily mouthfeel and don't like brittle or gooey foods. But those preferences can lead to a less nutritious diet, according to Washington State University research published in the Journal of Texture Studies.
"Children with Down syndrome enjoy foods like Pirate's Booty and puffed corn," said Carolyn Ross, a professor in WSU's School of Food Science. "Those foods aren't of high nutritional value, but they're dissolvable - a huge plus for these children. Now the challenge is making nutritious foods with those characteristics."
The paper examined what food textures children with Down syndrome liked or didn't like and how those preferences compared to typically developing children's preferences.
In the U.S., one in 772 babies (around 5,100 each year) are born with Down syndrome, a genetic condition caused by a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. Feeding and swallowing impairments are common and key predictors of increased death among those individuals.
It's been known for years that children with Down syndrome don't eat as much as typically developing children, but nobody has studied food textures as a factor. Ross said that this research could help clinicians and parents determine what foods will get eaten while hopefully prompting food manufacturers to tailor products to this population's specific needs.
"This was a huge area of missing research," Ross said. "There are many anecdotal stories, and you can go down an online rabbit hole to find information. But studies like this can help parents and clinicians know what these children will most likely eat and help reduce choking incidences. If we can add nutritional value to those foods, we'll help many people."
Choking is one of the leading causes of death among people with Down syndrome because they may not chew food enough or "pack" it, overfilling their mouths and cheeks without swallowing.
Children with Down syndrome have various health issues, more than typically developing children, including feeding and swallowing challenges and food texture sensitivities. Ross wants to help children with Down syndrome have healthier eating options and become more comfortable with complex textures.
"We want to help people understand what food textures children with Down syndrome prefer and how to move them from things like pureed foods to texturally complex foods, which tend to have more nutritional value," Ross said.
Ross and her team sent boxes with 16 commercially available kinds of food to 218 children aged 11 to 18 in 30 states. Of those boxes, 111 went to children with Down syndrome, the rest to a control group of typically developing youth.
The boxes contained four items in each of four different texture groups to ensure that flavor wasn't the reason for a texture preference. The research team asked parents about disliked flavors before the boxes were sent to avoid those products. All children in the study ate one of each item every day for a week to make sure enjoyment wasn't due to novelty.
The parents then filmed the children interacting with and eating each item, uploading the videos to the research team.
"We coded a lot of data; it's the biggest home-use test involving children with Down syndrome that we've ever heard of," Ross said. "And it showed a big difference in texture preference between children with and without Down syndrome."
Food Texture Preference for Kids with Down Syndrome | Washington State University (wsu.edu). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.
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