Lack of Exercise and Dietary Deficiencies Seen in Adults with PWS, Study Reports

Patricia Inácio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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Adult patients with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) show a lack of physical activity and deficient amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and fiber, a small study reports.

These results support interventions to reduce sedentary lifestyles and the introduction of supplements to combat dietary deficiencies in Prader-Willi patients.

The study, “The associations between diet and physical activity with body composition and walking a timed distance in adults with Prader-Willi syndrome,” was published in the journal Food & Nutrition Research.

Research into both children and young adults with PWS showed signs of inadequate nutrient intake and high body fat associated with obesity, but few studies have investigated the impact of Prader-Willi on adult patients older than 35.

Obesity is recognized as the main risk factor for death across all age groups in PWS, so an early diagnosis and strategies to prevent patients from becoming overweight are essential to avoid early mortality.

A team of researchers from the University of Oklahoma looked at the dietary habits, physical activity, and body composition of adults with Prader-Willi syndrome, and tested the possible associations between these variables. The team also assessed how these variables were linked with the patients’ ability to walk.

Researchers analyzed adults ages 18-62 with PWS recruited across the state of Oklahoma. The study included 19 patients, 11 males and eight females, of the estimated 60 adults with PWS living in Oklahoma.

First, researchers sorted the data on each variable according to age groups, and saw that BMI (body mass index), body fat percentage, and waist-to-hip ratio — all measures for obesity — were higher in patients older than 40.

Also, distance performance in the two- and six-minute walk tests was about 20% less in patients older than 30 compared to those under 30, although the average step counts were similar between the two groups.

“Mean steps taken per day was 7,631.7 steps, but only 16% of participants met healthy [physical activity] recommendations [currently set at 10,000 steps] despite participating in daily structured exercise,” researchers wrote.

The analysis revealed no association between physical activity measures — accelerometer data and activity logs — and body composition/obesity measures (BMI, waist and hip measurements, and body fat percentage) in individuals with PWS.

The accelerometer collects information about movement in the form of steps per day and position: standing vs. sitting or lying down.

The diets of all of study participants correlated with current dietary guidelines, but 80% of the patients had low calcium levels and 87% showed deficits in fiber. All PWS patients had vitamin D deficiencies.

The team suggested that although the size of the sample analyzed was small, the results support interventions in Prader-Willi patients to increase their physical activity and reduce their sedentary time.

Researchers also recommend “increasing vitamin A and D fortified dairy products and high-fiber foods, and consider dietary supplementation, especially for calcium, vitamin D, and fiber” in adults with PWS.