Obesity among people with and without mental retardation across adulthood.

OBJECTIVE: This study was designed to explore obesity during adulthood and the likelihood of moving out of obesity among 1809 adults without disability and 680 adults with mental retardation who received care at the same primary care practices during the period of 1990 to 2003. Research Method and Procedures: A retrospective observational design using medical records first identified patients with mental retardation (MR) and age-matched controls without disabilities. Data on BMI collected during each primary care visit allowed exploration of obesity at three levels. Moving out of obesity was defined as having a BMI <25 kg/m(2). We also abstracted data on age, sex, race, and other medical conditions.

RESULTS: For adults 20 to 29 years of age, 33.1% of patients without disability and 21% of patients with MR had a BMI >30 kg/m(2). Between the ages of 50 and 59 years, 40.5% of the patients without disability and 35.2% of the patients with MR had a BMI >30 kg/m(2). Patients with mild MR had similar prevalence rates of obesity and patients with severe MR had significantly lower prevalence of obesity compared with the patients without disability through 50 years of age. Throughout the period from 20 to 60 years of age, between 15% and 40% of individuals with and without MR, who were previously obese, were not currently obese.

DISCUSSION: Throughout the adult years, an increasing proportion of individuals with and without MR are obese. However, obesity is not a chronic state; many people transition back to a normal body weight.