Intellectual disability and nutrition-related health.

EMBO molecular medicine. 2020;12(10):e12899

Other resources

Plain language summary

Certain inborn errors of metabolism have been linked to several conditions with intellectual disability (ID). Treating these preventable or treatable forms of ID require the support of experts in nutrition and medicine. However, nutritional measures and diet must be adjusted to the different syndromes and their inherent implications, which requires knowledge of ID in general, and of specific diagnosis groups in particular. In addition, challenging behaviour, lower cognitive functions, and capacity in daily-life activities translate into nutritional problems such as shopping, cooking and eating patterns, including snacking, that require systematic professional support. This study shows that the development of adapted mobile phone programs and apps will be of great value in interventions, educational studies and for persons with ID to help them manage their daily chores and their diet, particularly those with moderate and light ID. Addressing the multifaceted challenges of nutrition and health in persons with ID requires more research and increased priority from funding agencies, along with increased visibility and knowledge of the various forms of ID in general.


Intellectual disability (ID) is a condition that affects approximately 1% of the population (Maulik et al, 2011). The numbers may differ across nations, owing to different systems and diagnosis entries or lack of such, but usually range between 0.6 and 3% (Stromme & Valvatne, 1998). Persons with ID are a heterogeneous group with different diagnoses and different levels of intellectual ability. These range from profound (IQ < 20) and serious ID (IQ 20-34) to moderate (IQ 35-49) and light ID (IQ 50-69); this roughly translates into the intellectual capacity of children between 3-12 years of age. More than 75% of persons with ID have the mild form and their intellectual capacity and potential may be underestimated in some cases if IQ is the only diagnostic criteria. However, the range in itself is an important factor to take into account when addressing nutrition and health issues. It is further important to recognize that ID is also a feature of several rare disorders, and many disorders not yet identified, adding to the complexity of this group.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Neurological
Patient Centred Factors : Triggers/Intellectual disability
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients ; Psychosocial influences
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition ; Psychological
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Journal Article