ADHD and Teen Obesity

ADHDIt may seem ironic, but children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are actually more likely to become sedentary as teenagers, causing them to become obese.[1] Although experts have recognized a link between ADHD and obesity for some time now, whether one leads to the other has remained unclear.1 Therefore, a new Finnish study set out to clarify the relationship by following children with ADHD through to adolescence.1

Finnish researchers followed approximately 7,000 children who reside in Finland, and found that those who exhibited symptoms of ADHD by age eight were at a higher risk of being obese at age 16—these children were less physically active as teenagers.1

Internationally, ADHD affects between two and five percent of school-aged children, and is quite often associated with poor school performance.1 Symptoms are inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.1 Although difficult to diagnose, screening questionnaires are able to give an indication of a probable diagnosis.1

Also, conduct disorder, a condition that is related to ADHD characterized by violent tendencies, rule-breaking, and delinquency, has also been found to be linked with physical inactivity and obesity among teens.1

“Obesity is a growing problem that we need to watch out for in all children and young people, but these findings suggest that it’s particularly important for children with ADHD,” said senior author Dr. Alina Rodriguez, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. “It appears that lack of physical activity might be a key factor. We think encouraging children with ADHD to be more physically active could improve their behavior problems as well as helping them to stay a healthy weight, and studies should be carried out to test this theory.”1

Binge eating was also investigated as a possible factor that might contribute to obesity in this population; however, it was not found to be more prevalent in children with ADHD.1

Obesity in childhood and adolescence is linked to various short-term and long-term health risks, including type II diabetes, heart disease, circulatory disease, and other mental health conditions.1 It is important that children and adolescents with ADHD stick with a healthy, portion-controlled diet and partake in daily physical activity.

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). ADHD Linked to Teen Obesity, Physical Inactivity. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 5, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/05/adhd-linked-to-teen-obesity-physical-inactivity/66696.html

One Comment

  • Amelia

    March 19, 2014, 8:00 pm

    How is this connection explained? What may cause it?

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