Securing rights and nutritional health for persons with intellectual disabilities – a pressing challenge

  • Svein Olav Kolset
  • Sigrun Hope
  • Kjetil Retterstøl
  • Marianne Nordstrøm
  • Per Ole Iversen
Keywords: Intellectual disabilities, Nutrition, Health, Obesity, Staff nutritional competence, Specific syndromes, Nutritional policies


Persons with intellectual disabilities (ID) are dependent on nutritional policies that have so far not been addressed in a systematic and health-promoting manner in Norway and other nations with a high socioeconomic standard. In many poor countries, such issues have not even been raised nor addressed. Nutritional issues facing persons with ID include the risk of both underweight and overweight. Deficiency in energy, vitamins, essential fatty acids and micronutrients can increase the risk of additional health burdens in already highly vulnerable individuals. According to the World Health Organization, the obesity rates have tripled worldwide the last decades, and recent studies suggest that the prevalence of obesity is even higher for persons with ID than in the general population. This implies additional burdens of life style diseases such as diabetes and hypertension for adults with ID. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-5, this group is characterized by intellectual difficulties as well as difficulties in conceptual, social, and practical areas of living. Their reduced intellectual capacity implies that they often have difficulties in making good dietary choices. As a group, they are dependent upon help and guidance to promote a healthy life style. To improve their health, there is a need for improved national services and for more research on lifestyle and nutritional issues in persons with ID. From a human rights perspective, these issues must be put on the agenda both in relevant UN fora and in the respective nations’ health policies.


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How to Cite
Kolset S, Hope S, Retterstøl K, Nordstrøm M, Iversen P. Securing rights and nutritional health for persons with intellectual disabilities – a pressing challenge. Food & Nutrition Research [Internet]. 7Jun.2018 [cited 22Jul.2018];62. Available from:

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