Kids with ADHD already have a lot to struggle with in their day-to-day lives at school and home, but new research adds to their lists of concerns: obesity. A new study shows that children with ADHD are more likely to become obese as adults.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, tracked 207 men who were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as children. Researchers followed-up with the men when they were 18, 25, and 41 years old and compared them to 178 men who never had the disorder. Some 33 years after diagnosis, the men who had childhood ADHD had significantly higher BMIs than men without the disorder, and were twice as likely to become obese.
The researchers also examined men who had childhood ADHD which remitted when they became an adult. These men were just as likely to be obese as the men with persistent ADHD. The associations held even after adjusting for anxiety, lifetime mood, substance abuse, and socioeconomic status. The study confirms the results of an earlier study pointing to a link between obesity and ADHD, even after ruling out the influence of anxiety and depression.
Since ADHD affects executive function, planning ahead and monitoring eating behavior may be challenging for people with the disorder. Additionally, ADHD could impact impulse control, making it harder to resist temptations or stick to a diet. These deficits may lead to weight gain early in life that persist into adulthood.
This increased risk of obesity makes people with ADHD particularly vulnerable to all the additional risks associated with being overweight, like lower back and knee pain, diabetes, and heart disease.
Parents of kids with ADHD can help prevent childhood obesity by pursuing natural therapies that encourage healthy habits. Exercise has been shown to benefit kids with ADHD, and case studies suggest that chiropractic care could potentially play a role. In one recent case study, a five-year old boy with ADHD had noticeable improvements in his school performance and ability to follow instructions after receiving chiropractic treatments.
Cortese, et al. Obesity in men with childhood ADHD: A 33-year controlled, prospective follow-up study. Pediatrics 2013; doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-0540.