The ADHD – Obesity Link


Eating “better” and losing weight are common new year’s resolutions. How does the issue of weight relate to ADHD?

Recent research reported online in the journal Pediatrics compared BMI (body mass index) and obesity in men who had childhood diagnoses of ADHD and those who did not.

In analyzing the data, the researchers controlled for both socio-economic status and history of mental illness (including depression, anxiety and substance abuse), meaning that statistical processes were used to assure that these factors did not influence the study results. 

Researchers found that both increased BMI and obesity were significantly more likely in men with a history of childhood ADHD, whether or not their ADD symptoms had persisted into adulthood. These results are consistent with similar findings in several prior studies. The researchers suggest at least several possible  behavioral and biological reasons for this finding:

  • ADHD-related inattention may lead to difficulty maintaining regular eating patterns, resulting in “abnormal” eating behaviors.
  • ADHD-related impulsivity can lead to poor planning as well as difficulty in monitoring eating behaviors, leading ro consequent obesity.
  • Both ADHD and obesity share abnormal dopamine (neuro-transmitter) pathways in the frontal lobes of the brain – impacting impulse control, executive functioning, and sensitivity to rewards.
  • Some evidence exists for genetic alterations related to neural pathways that impact both ADD and obesity.

If you are the parent of a child with ADD, you might want to work on establishing healthy patterns of eating and exercise at a young age.

If you are an adult with ADHD and do not have weight concerns, ongoing attention to exercise, nutrition, and eating patterns may be a useful approach to preventing obesity and its related health-risks.

If you are an adult with ADD and obesity or other weight concerns, discuss the impact of ADD on your eating patterns with your doctor and psychiatrist. Managing weight loss might work best if you work as a team with your doctor, psychiatrist, nutritionist and a therapist or coach well aware of the impact of ADHD behaviors and biochemistry on weight issues.

To your health!

Posted in ADD, ADHD, health

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