Girls with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at a higher risk of becoming obese in childhood or adulthood, according to a new study.
The research conducted by the Mayo Clinic Children’s Research Center found girls with childhood ADHD “were at a two-fold greater risk of developing obesity during childhood and adulthood compared to females without ADHD.”
Researchers followed 336 individuals with childhood ADHD and 665 participants who do not have ADHD. They tracked their weight, height and treatments for deacades. The authors say the medications often prescribed for ADHD are not the reason for the obesity risk.
“Females with ADHD are at risk of developing obesity during adulthood, and stimulant medications used to treat ADHD do not appear to alter that risk,” said lead author Dr. Seema Kumar, pediatrician and researcher at Mayo Clinic.
ADHD has become one of the most commonly diagnosed neuro-developmental disorders of childhood. The rates of obese and overweight children has become a global epidemic, according the the World Health Organization. Previous studies suggest that children with clinically diagnosed ADHD are heavier than the average child, according to researchers.
WATCH ABOVE: Dr. Seema Kumar, an associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism at Mayo Clinic in discusses her research regarding an association between childhood ADHD and obesity.
The study’s findings suggest that a relationship between ADHD and obesity exists, but the reasons why are not certain.
Researchers offer some clues as to possible reasons:
- The association between ADHD and obesity may reflect shared underlying abnormalities in the neural dopaminergic pathways that regulate not only impulse control and reward sensitivity but also appetite and feeling full.
- Poor executive functioning in individuals with ADHD may lead to less regular eating patterns, overeating, impulsivity, as well as decreased physical activity, thereby leading to excessive weight gain.
- Sleep difficulties, often present in children with ADHD, may also lead to excess weight gain as a result of behavioural and hormonal factors.
Researcher says their findings point to the need for targeted assistance for children with ADHD — guidance and education in the areas of diet and physical activity, as well as medical staff monitoring children for weight and healthy lifestyle choices.