Children with ADHD Symptoms at Higher Risk of Obesity

WEDNESDAY Oct. 27, 2010 -- Children with symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at increased risk for obesity in adulthood, a new study claims.

Having three or more of any of the symptoms of ADHD -- such as inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity -- significantly increases the chances of being obese, according to researchers from Duke University Medical Center, who examined federal data on 15,197 adolescents followed from 1995 to 2009.

"It's not just the diagnosis of ADHD that matters; it's the symptoms," study co-author Scott Kollins, director of the Duke ADHD Program, said in a Duke news release.

Another study author agreed, adding that the more symptoms, the higher the risk.

"It's a dose effect. We showed that as the number of symptoms increase, the prevalence of obesity also increases," said study co-author Bernard Fuemmeler, director of the Pediatric Psychology & Family Health Promotion Lab in the Department of Community and Family Medicine.

Even among children with only symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsiveness -- the most influential of the risk factors studied -- the risk of obesity rose to 63 percent. These symptoms were also associated with greater weight gain in the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

The data on the teens came from the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

"The findings support the idea that certain self-regulation capacities, like the ability to regulate one's impulses, could be a relevant trait to understanding why some people may be more vulnerable to obesity," Fuemmeler said, adding that this might help with the design of interventions.

The study appears online in the International Journal of Obesity.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about ADHD.

Posted: October 2010


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