A new study conducted by researchers at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center found men diagnosed as children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were 2x as likely to be obese in a 33-year follow-up study compared to men who were not diagnosed with the condition. The study appears in the May 20 online edition of Pediatrics.
“Few studies have focused on long-term outcomes for patients diagnosed with ADHD in childhood. In this study, we wanted to assess the health outcomes of children diagnosed with ADHD, focusing on obesity rates and Body Mass Index(BMI),” said lead author Francisco Xavier Castellanos, MD, Brooke and Daniel Neidich Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Child Study Center at NYU Langone. “Our results found that even when you control for other factors often associated with increased obesity rates such as socioeconomic status, men diagnosed with ADHD were at a significantly higher risk to suffer from high BMI and obesity as adults.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders, often diagnosed in childhood and lasting into adulthood. People with ADHD typically have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors and tend to be overly active. ADHD has an estimated worldwide prevalence of 5%, with men more likely to be diagnosed than women.
The prospective study included 207 white men diagnosed with ADHD at an average age of 8 and a comparison group of 178 men not diagnosed with childhood ADHD, who were matched for race, age, residence and social class. The average age at follow up was 41 years old. The study was designed to compare BMI and obesity rates in grown men with and without childhood ADHD.
Results showed that, on average, men with childhood ADHD had significantly higher BMI (30.1 vs. 27.6) and obesity rates (41.1% vs. 21.6%) than men without childhood ADHD.
“The results of the study are concerning but not surprising to those who treat patients with ADHD. Lack of impulse control and poor planning skills are symptoms often associated with the condition and can lead to poor food choices and irregular eating habits,” noted Dr. Castellanos. “This study emphasizes that children diagnosed with ADHD need to be monitored for long-term risk of obesity and taught healthy eating habits as they become teenagers and adults.”
In response to the study, Professor Karen Bonuck at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine mentioned that such ADHD-Obesity Link may also be caused by Sleep Problems.
She therefore urges the “close attention” for Sleep Problems in childhood.
“SDB (sleep disordered breathing) which ranges from Snoring to Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome, significantly elevates risks for both ADHD and Obesity in children.
Short Sleep Duration has also been shown to be associated with higher rates of Obesity in longitudinal studies.
Both SDB and Short Sleep Duration lead to impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and inflammation, all of which predispose to Obesity.
SDB’s role in ADHD is more likely tied to abnormal gas exchanges that occur during nighttime sleep interrupted by SDB, along with accompanying sleep fragmentation and adverse neuronal impacts.
The (Cortese et al.) study likely did not capture information about either Sleep Disorder, so we can not know if and how sleep problems were an unobserved, but potentially strong confounding factor in their findings.”
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