Childhood ADHD Linked with Adult Obesity

05/25/2013

Childhood-adhd-linked-to-adult-obesity-mainIn the U.S., 11 percent of children are impacted by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and most of them are boys.

According to NIH, it’s one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. These children have difficulty staying focused, controlling behavior, and can act out impulsively.

ADHD medications like Ritalin and Adderall have been known to suppress a child’s appetite, but later in life, according to new research, the problem becomes the opposite. 

Adult men that were diagnosed with ADHD as children are more likely to be obese as adults. Men with childhood ADHD weighed an average of 19 pounds more than men that didn’t have ADHD as children. While the study didn’t show that one caused the other, there was a link, according to NPR.

The study looked at 111 boys with ADHD at age 8 and then assessed them later at age 41. The men were compared to similar men that didn’t have ADHD. The men that had ADHD weighed an average of 213 pounds and 41 percent of them were obese. Many of them couldn’t even fit in the MRI machine that was used in the study. 

According to NPR, "This study doesn't figure out why boyhood ADHD might be causing weight problems in adulthood. The weight gain could be caused by psychological factors or neurobiology, [F. Xavier Castellanos, a psychiatrist at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York and a co-author of the study] speculates. Differences in the pathways for dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain, have been found in both people who are obese and people with ADHD, he says."

Impulsive behavior typical of those with ADHD may also be to blame. Researchers warned that parents of ADHD children should work extra hard to instill healthy eating habits in their children. 

Photo: Alexraths/Veer

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Read More: For 64 Percent of Kids with ADHD, Food is the Cause


Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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