Long-term study links ADHD and obesity

    A new long-term study links attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity.

    Researchers at New York University Langone Medical Center followed a group of boys with ADHD from the time they were eight until they were over 40, to gain insight into the disorder’s impact on their lives.

    They tracked more than 200 study participants for three decades — along with a control group of men who do not have ADHD. The last check, when the participants were over 40, included a brain scan. That’s where scientists made a surprising discovery says lead researcher Xavier Castellanos.

    “A substantial proportion of the ADHD group couldn’t fit into the scanner, because they had gotten so big,” explained Castellanos.

    He says when his team tracked and evaluated height and weight of study participants, they found that those with ADHD were twice as likely to be obese as those who did not have the diagnosis.

    Additional results

    Castellanos added that other research has pointed to a relationship between ADHD, obesity and binge eating.

    “We think that it likely is a manifestation of being impulsive, to value current satisfaction more than long-term consequences,” explained Castellanos.  It’s a common trait in those with ADHD.

    “This is sort of a metabolic manifestation of that kind of impulsivity,” he said.

    Point of discussion

    University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist Tony Rostain treats people with ADHD. He says this is an important study that sheds light on the long-term toll of the disorder.

    Rostain says he will talk about these findings with parents of kids with ADHD.

    “Parents are always wondering ‘what’s the future for my child with ADHD?'” said Rostain. “I think what we want to say to parents is ‘it’s very important that they learn good habits early in life, such as eating habits that are healthy, exercising, sleep’ — all of the basics.”

    Xavier Castellanos of NYU says he would like to conduct further research to better understand the brain mechanisms that may be contributing to obesity.

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