Public Release: 

Study shows association among childhood ADHD, sex and obesity

Mayo Clinic

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- The incidence of childhood and adult obesity has increased significantly over the past three decades. New research shows that there is an association between obesity development during adulthood and childhood attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Mayo Clinic researchers led the multi-site study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Although various studies propose a connection between childhood ADHD and obesity, "this is the first population-based longitudinal study to examine the association between ADHD and development of obesity using ADHD cases and controls of both sexes derived from the same birth cohort," says lead author Seema Kumar, M.D., pediatrician and researcher at Mayo Clinic Children's Research Center.

The study included 336 individuals with childhood ADHD born from 1976 to 1982 and matched with 665 non-ADHD controls of the same age and sex. Weight, height and stimulant treatment measurements were gathered from medical records detailing care provided from Jan. 1, 1976, through Aug. 31, 2010. Cox models were used to assess the link between ADHD and obesity.

The researchers found that females with childhood ADHD were at a two-fold greater risk of developing obesity during childhood and adulthood compared to females without ADHD. Obesity was not associated with stimulant treatment among childhood ADHD cases. "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," Dr. Kumar says.

There is a need for greater awareness regarding the association between ADHD and obesity in females among patients, caregivers and health care providers, Dr. Kumar adds.

This study encourages all patients with ADHD to engage in preventive measures, specifically healthy eating and an active lifestyle, as part of routine care to prevent obesity.

As a result of this study, Dr. Kumar and her team are researching the effect of specific psychiatric comorbidities commonly seen in individuals with ADHD on the development of obesity.

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The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Rochester Epidemiology Project grant R01-AG034676.

Additional authors of the study are:

  • Slavica K. Katusic, M.D., Mayo Clinic
  • Cynthia L. Leibson, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
  • William J. Barbaresi, M.D., Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School
  • Amy L. Weaver, Mayo Clinic
  • Jill M. Killian, Mayo Clinic
  • Robert G. Voigt, M.D., Texas Children's Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine
  • Roxana L. Aguirre, M.D., University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria

About Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to medical research and education, and providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit http://www.mayoclinic.org/about-mayo-clinic or http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/.

About Mayo Clinic Proceedings

Mayo Clinic Proceedings is a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal that publishes original articles and reviews dealing with clinical and laboratory medicine, clinical research, basic science research and clinical epidemiology. Proceedings is sponsored by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research as part of its commitment to physician education. It publishes submissions from authors worldwide. The journal has been published for more than 80 years and has a circulation of 130,000. Articles are available online at http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kelley Luckstein, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, newsbureau@mayo.edu

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