ADHD may effect obesity later in life

ADHD may effect obesity later in life

It would seem that children who lead a more active lifestyle would be less prone to obesity.  That’s not always the case according to a new study published in Pediatrics.  According to the report, children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may be more likely to be obese as adults.

More than four million children in the United States live with ADHD, and researchers at NYU’s Langone Medical Center have been following more than 200 kids for four decades.  The results indicate that those who had ADHD are more than twice as likely to be obese at age 41.

The study included 207 white men diagnosed with ADHD at an average age of 8 and another group of 178 men who were not diagnosed with ADHD.  The comparison group was matched for race, age, residence and social class.  Due to the small sample size, the study requires additional replication, but the results indicate a substantial correlation.

“In this controlled, prospective longitudinal study, childhood ADHD in boys predicted significantly higher BMI [Body Mass Index], and a twofold increase in obesity rates in adulthood, at a mean age of 41 years relative to men without childhood ADHD,” write the authors in the study.

Based on a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents report that approximately more than 9 percent of children have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2007.  Boys are substantially more likely to be diagnosed than girls.

People with ADHD typically have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors and tend to be overly active, according to the CDC.  ADHD cannot be cured, though symptoms may improve as the child ages and medicine can control the effects of the disorder.

Read More: Kids with ADHD may face a lifetime of challenges

Two hypotheses have been proposed to explain the relationship between ADHD and obesity.

“First, deficient inhibitory control and delay aversion, expressions of the impulsivity intrinsic to ADHD, may foster poor planning and difficulty in monitoring eating behaviors, leading to abnormal eating patterns and consequent obesity,” write the authors. “In addition, ADHD-related in-attention and deficits in executive functions may produce difficulties in adherence to regular eating patterns, leading to abnormal eating behaviors.”

The study also disproved two other possible explanations.

“Results also confirm that anxiety or depressive disorders are unlikely to explain the association between childhood ADHD and obesity in adulthood,” they write.  “In addition, lifetime substance use disorders, which have not been taken into consideration in previous studies, did not affect the relationship between childhood ADHD and obesity in adult-hood.”

If confirmed, the results of the study could have wide-reaching implications for the care and treatment of children with ADHD.  But, until then, the authors say parents and health care professionals alike should take note:

“Children with ADHD are at increased risk of obesity as adults.”

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.