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Study to focus on obesity among disabled adults

Rates have risen sharply over last decade

Almost nothing is known about how to reduce the incidence of obesity in adults with developmental disabilities - until now. A collaboration between Life Span Institute and developmental disabilities scientists aims to develop a simple, effective and inexpensive diet plan that will eventually be promulgated throughout the Kansas developmentally disabled network.

Recruiting near you

The project is actively recruiting in Johnson County and recruitment will soon expand to Wyandotte, Franklin and Douglas counties. For more information, contact Richard Saunders at (785) 864-0578 or (913) 579-6043.

As people with the disabilities have moved out of institutions, they've made the same poor diet choices that have lead to America's soaring obesity rate - only more so, according to Richard Saunders, director of the three- year study.

The last large scale study of people with the disabilities in 1993, showed obesity rates at 40.9 percent for those who live semi-independently to 55.3 percent for those who live at home. "And we assume these rates have climbed just like those of the general population," Saunders said. In 2005, 23.9 percent of the total adult U.S. population was obese.

Teaming with disability experts Saunders and Muriel Saunders are Joseph Donnelly, director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Center and colleague Bryan K. Smith, assistant research professor. Debra Sullivan, chair and associate professor of the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at the KU Medical Center, will serve as an adviser.

The three-year will study will target significant weight loss in at least 100 people from northeast Kansas through a modified version of a proven 1,200 calorie a day diet plan. In year three, the researchers will take their resulting modified plan on the road in day-long workshops to the Kansas network of community developmental disabilities organizations.

The project is funded through a grant from the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities with funds made available through the U.S. Administration on Developmental Disabilities.

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