ADHD in girls can lead to obesity in adulthood, according to a new study. Young girls who suffer from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder during childhood are twice as likely to be obese later on in life.
Researchers looked at the medical records of 336 children diagnosed with ADHD born between 1976 and 1982, then compared them to 665 kids of the same age and sex that did not have the disorder. Data from 1976 to 2010 related to the weight, height, and treatment of the children were analyzed.
As reported by CBS News, the study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Seema Kumar at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Research Center.
“To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal population-based study to examine the association between ADHD and development of obesity using patients with ADHD and controls of both sexes derived from the same birth cohort.”
There was a noteworthy relationship between ADHD and obesity once the females became adults, according to the research. About 42 percent of ADHD women were considered overweight after age 20, compared to less than 20 percent who did not have the condition.
“Females with ADHD are at risk of developing obesity during adulthood and stimulant medications used to treat ADHD do not appear to alter that risk,” said Kumar.
The researchers think irregularities in the brain caused by ADHD may lead to some eating disorders. Additionally, there are differences in ADHD symptoms among boys and girls, which makes it more difficult to detect the disorder in girls.
“Girls with ADHD may not be able to control their eating and may end up overeating. Because kids with ADHD don’t have impulse control, it may also play a role in this.” Kumar explained.
The study did not find any correlation between ADHD and obesity in males. Boys with the condition generally burn more calories and tend not to develop eating disorders. Kumar says that is most likely due to differences in eating patterns of boys versus girls or the specific type of ADHD girls have.
Generally, girls with the disorder have lower self-confidence and poorer coping strategies, as well as higher rates of anxiety and depression. While the Mayo Clinic study shows a relationship between ADHD in girls and adult obesity, that doesn’t necessarily mean a child will grow to be overweight later in life.
“One of the last things we want to do is create a panic,” said Dr. Brandon Korman from Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami who was not involved in the study. “ADHD is not a sentence for being obese, but these findings warrant a greater awareness. It’s unhealthy expecting that this will happen, but it’s a good thing to be aware of it.”
Children with ADHD have difficulty staying focused, paying attention, and controlling their behavior. These symptoms lead to troubled social relationships and inability to participate in school activities. Up to 16 percent of school-age children have the disorder and quite often stays with the child into adulthood.
Previous research projects have linked ADHD in children to weight problems and the Mayo Clinic study authors suggest it is crucial to understand the various causes. As obesity becomes more and more common in the United States, other weight-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease also become a higher risk.
The researchers hope the study will make parents and doctors more aware of the relationship of ADHD in girls and adult obesity. The eating habits of a child afflicted with the condition should be closely monitored, while also encouraging increased physical activity. Often associated with ADHD, sleep disorders can also contribute to weight gain, according to the report published February 4 in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
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