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Childhood ADHD and Adult Obesity Be Linked: A Study

May 21, 2013 04:39 PM EDT
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Boys diagnosed with ADHD may be as much as twice as likely to be obese as adults, report scientists from the Child Study Center at NYU Longone Medical Center.

“Few studies have focused on long-term outcomes for patients diagnosed with ADHD in childhood,” said lead author Dr. Fransisco Xavier Castellanos in a press release. “In this study, we wanted to assess the health outcomes of children diagnosed with ADHD, focusing on obesity rates and Body Mass Index.”

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, included 207 white men who were diagnosed with the disorder at an average age of 8 and a group of 178 men without ADHD who matched the first group in terms of age, race, residence and social class.

In all, the average age at follow up was 41 years old.

The results showed that men diagnosed with childhood ADHD, on average, had a BMI of 30.1 and obesity rates of 41 percent compared to the control group, which had an average BMI of 27.6 and obesity rates of 21.6 percent.

“The results of the study are concerning but not surprising to those who treat patients with ADHD,” Castellanos said. “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.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders that lasts from childhood onto adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty paying attention and a tendency to be excessively active. Worldwide, the estimated prevalence of the disorder is 5 percent with more men than women are affected.

Ultimately, Castellanos said, “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.”

The study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Drug Abuse as well as a grant from the European Commission.

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