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ADHD in Childhood, Obesity in Adulthood?

ADHD and obesity

Impulsive behaviors, unhealthy eating?

ADHD is making the news today. The CDC just reported that the rate of ADHD is up to 1 in 10 children — a 22 percent increase from 2003.

And in related news, findings from Duke University tell us that young adults with a history of ADHD symptoms are more likely to be obese.

The researchers studied over 11,500 kids starting in 1995. What they found was that those who reported more ADHD-type behaviors as children were more likely to struggle with weight later in life.

Of those who reported three or more hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms in childhood, 41 percent were obese as young adults.

Here are some possible reason for the ADHD link:

1. An impulsive personality leads to bad eating habits: The people who reported impulsivity and hyperactivity were much more likely to report being overweight than those who just had only the “inattentive” symptoms of ADHD.  This means that having an impulsive streak might make a person more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and have weight struggles.

2. Kids who are on ADHD meds could develop bad eating practices: Since a decreased appetite is a side effect of some ADHD medications, it could be that kids on them don’t naturally learn healthy eating habits. And maybe when they go off the medication for short periods or for good, it’s hard to balance out a good diet.

3. ADHD and eating patterns share similar brain pathways: Both ADHD and eating are connected to the brain’s dopamine (reward) system. It could be that certain wiring predisposes kids for changes in both hyperactive behavior and eating at the same time.

To be sure, this doesn’t show a causal link between ADHD and obesity, it just means the two are correlated. But according to the scientists, it isn’t the first time ADHD and obesity have been connected.

What do you think, do kids with a more impulsive nature need extra coaching to develop healthy eating habits?

Image: flickr/diofink

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