A new study published in this week's Pediatrics revealed that a link exists between childhood attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity. The study, conducted by the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, followed men diagnosed with childhood ADHD for a thirty-three year period.
ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders diagnosed in childhood, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In addition, ADHD can last into adulthood resulting in problems paying attention, impulsive behaviors, and over activity. 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. It is estimated to affect 5% of the world's population and disproportionately men. 30-50% of children with ADHD continue to experience systems into adulthood.
While other studies in children and adults have show a positive correlation between ADHD and obesity, this study demonstrated that boys with ADHD grew up to be men with significantly higher BMI and obesity rates in adulthood in comparison to men without childhood ADHD. Furthermore, the Child Study Center ruled out the possibility that these differences in BMI could have resulted from socioeconomic differences or other lifetime mental disorders. That is, anxiety, depressive disorders, substance abuse, or socio economic status can not explain the association found between childhood ADHD and adulthood obesity.
Previously, studies have reported that children with ADHD tend to have elevated rates of obesity. However, these past studies relied on retrospective reports of childhood ADHD. Other studies have compared men with childhood ADHD to non-ADHD men and found that those with a history of ADHD diagnosis reported significantly higher BMI. Prior to this new NYU study, no one had observed obesity in men beyond their final growth period and men diagnosed with ADHD in childhood. This study's conclusions along with past studies' evidence confirm that childhood ADHD in Caucasian boys predisposes them to adult obesity.
It should be noted that weight and height were both self-reported in this new study. From these self-reported values the subjects' BMI was calculated. However, a previous large study did find that men 40-49 years of age reported height and weight consistent with measurements. Similarly, self-reporting by men 30-39 years old only differed 1 pound in comparison to measured weight and height. Considering that 72% of this study's subjects were between the ages of 40-49 and the remaining subjects were aged 30-39, it is unlikely that a bias was introduced through self-reporting of weight.
While the exact cause and pathophysiology of ADHD have not been identified, previous studies have implicated a fronto-striatal dopaminergic pathway dysfunction. These same neurological circuits have been identified as a possible cause for obesity. Preliminary genetic evidence suggests that a chromosomal alteration in the genes regulate dopamine and melanocortin may attribute to both obesity and ADHD. This genetic mutation would explain the impulse control, executive functions, and reward sensitivity of both ailments. Ultimately, this genetic link and possible pathway dysfunction should be further studied for the advancement of both ADHD and obesity.
About Author / Additional Info:
Original Study: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/05/15/peds.2012-0540
Lisa Opdycke is a New York-based writer and editor. Lisa is originally from a small town in northeastern Indiana. She completed her undergraduate coursework in Human, Biology, Health, & Society at Cornell University in 2011. She received her Bachelor of Science with honors after completing her honors thesis project entitled, "Bovine Seminal Plasma Protein Loss during Capacitation of Fresh and Frozen-Thawed Sperm." Lisa begins her master's studies in public policy at Brown University in the fall following two years at Weill Cornell Medical College-New York Presbyterian Hospital.