A new study has found that girls with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at a higher risk of becoming obese than girls without the condition. The Mayo Clinic conducted the study with 1,000 girls to uncover their findings. They suggest that girls with ADHD have double the risk of becoming obese. Furthermore, the researchers did not find that ADHD treatment contributed to the risk.
Pediatrician and researcher Dr. Seema Kumar said, “There are a couple of biological mechanisms that underlie both obesity and ADHD. Girls with ADHD may not be able to control their eating and may end up overeating. Because kids with ADHD don’t have impulse control, it may also play a role in this.”
Additionally, sleep problems, which are quite common in ADHD, can also contribute to weight gain, the researchers pointed out.
Dr. Brandon Korman, chief of neuropsychology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, added that although the Mayo Clinic has revealed an association, they did not show cause and effect. He explained, “Parents and physicians and other caregivers need to be proactive in monitoring eating habits and exercise, and be aware of changes in body composition.”
Kumar added that the association between obesity and ADHD was not found in boys, as it is much rarer for boys to develop eating disorders compared to girls. Boys with ADHD tend to be more active, thus burning off more calories. Kumar said, “It is possible that there are differences in eating patterns with boys with ADHD or differences in the types of ADHD girls have.”
Previous research has found that ADHD children, on average, are heavier than other children without ADHD, and symptoms tend to worsen with increased weight.
The researchers suggest that the findings should raise awareness to parents, and that they are not intended to create panic. Being aware of the link between association and ADHD can help parents monitor their children and opt for healthy lifestyle choices to avoid health complications.