ADHD May Be Tied to Obesity Risk for Girls
Impulsiveness, eating disorders may help explain possible link, researcher says
By Steven Reinberg
THURSDAY, Feb. 4, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Girls with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have their share of challenges. And new research suggests a tendency toward obesity may be one of them.
In a 1,000-person study, Mayo Clinic researchers found that girls with ADHD may be twice as likely to be obese in childhood or early adulthood as girls without the disorder.
This association was not linked to treatment with stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall, the researchers said.
"There are a couple of biological mechanisms that underlie both obesity and ADHD," said Dr. Seema Kumar, a pediatrician and researcher at Mayo Clinic Children's Research Center in Rochester, Minn.
The abnormalities in the brain that can cause ADHD can also cause eating disorders, Kumar said. "Girls with ADHD may not be able to control their eating and may end up overeating," she explained. "Because kids with ADHD don't have impulse control, it may also play a role in this."
Sleep issues, which often go hand in hand with ADHD, may also contribute to weight gain, the researchers suggested.
But weight gain is not a given, said Dr. Brandon Korman, chief of neuropsychology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami. While the Mayo research shows an association between ADHD and obesity, it doesn't mean it's bound to happen, he said.
"Parents and physicians and other caregivers need to be proactive in monitoring eating habits and exercise, and be aware of changes in body composition," said Korman, who wasn't involved in the study. A healthy diet and active lifestyle are important, he added.
This association between ADHD and obesity was not found among men, Kumar said. And, she added, boys with the condition don't often have eating disorders.
Boys with ADHD tend to be hyperactive and burn more calories, according to Kumar. "It is possible that there are differences in eating patterns with boys with ADHD or differences in the types of ADHD girls have," she said.
Korman agreed that ADHD looks different in girls than boys.
"Boys tend to act out, while girls may engage in eating behaviors," Korman said. Girls have more "internalizing behaviors" and less "externalizing behaviors," he said.