Food scientists recently conducted a new study in an effort to understand why children with Down syndrome prefer eating different food groups than their peers.
Initiated by Washington State University Professor Carolyn Ross, the study compared the eating habits of 218 children aged 11 months to four years old, about half of whom had Down syndrome and half of whom did not. According to HealthDay, parents were sent commercially available food items and asked to film their kids as they ate them, so the researchers could evaluate their responses.
“Each box had four items from four different texture groups to prevent confusion about flavor being what caused the preference… Kids ate one of each item every day for a week — a frequency chosen to rule out enjoyment because of novelty.”
Through the study, Ross and her team discovered that unlike the participants without Down syndrome, the participants with Down syndrome frequently favored easily dissolvable foods over other foods, which often don’t have high nutritional values.
While many parents of children with Down syndrome have shared similar findings, this is the first time a study has corroborated these claims with scientific evidence – something which may encourage food manufacturers to develop new snacks that are tailored to children with Down syndrome.
As Ross stated in a recent interview:
“This was a huge area of missing research. 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 be most likely to eat and help reduce incidences of choking. If we can add nutritional value to those foods, then we’ll really help a lot of people.”