Childhood ADHD can raise risk of obesity in adult males

Males who had attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as children are about twice as likely to become obese in adulthood than their peers, according to a new study from the Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Researchers reported that men who had childhood ADHD were more prone toward a higher body-mass index (BMI), regardless of whether or not they still showed symptoms of the disorder as adults.

The study tracked 111 men who had childhood ADHD for 30 years - checking in with them at ages 18, 25 and 41. At the end of the study, 41 percent had become obese, compared to 22 percent of a control group without ADHD.

Is impulse control to blame?

Dr. Francisco Xavier Castellanos, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry in the Child Study Center at Langone Medical Center, and fellow study authors said that issues with impulse control and planning as ADHD children might contribute to overeating or poor nutritional choices as an adult.

"It fits with other studies, and suggests that the inability to control one's impulses, the tendency to be relatively reward-driven, may represent a risk of obesity over time," Castellanos said.

He also notes that, regardless of current health problems, obesity seemed to be linked to hyperactivity issues that arose in childhood. The results contradict what the team thought they might find, which was a link between adult-onset ADHD and obesity.

Conflicting information

The study counters another research project, which found that men with adult hyperactivity were more likely to be obese than men who had childhood ADHD.

"The question now becomes why the findings are different," said Dr. Craig Surman, scientific coordinator for the Adult ADHD Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

More research about how ADHD affects the obesity rates of adult women would be helpful, too, Surman said.

"It's very important to understand the ways ADHD affects life and self-care," he noted. "We've known for some time that it's not just people's desks and houses that are messy. For some people, it's a lack of ability to control how to care for themselves as well."

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: US News Health

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