Thursday, November 11, 2010

ADHD and Obesity

Make a guess - are people with ADHD more likely to be obese or skinny?

I would have thought skinny, just on first hunch.  Calories in = calories out, right?  And a lot of folks with ADHD are very fidgety!  Never sit still.

I was wrong.  There are actually a number of studies linking ADHD to childhood and adulthood obesity.  Another very large study came out a week or so ago in the International Journal of Obesity.  I don't have that much time right now so I'll not comment on the methods as much as usual suffice it to say that 12000 or so people were followed from adolescence into adulthood, and records were kept of ADHD hyperactive and inattentive symptoms, along with waist circumference, BMI, blood pressure, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol.  No one tracked any measure of diet as I can't see how that would be pertinent to an obesity study...

The results - kids with ADHD symptoms in childhood were 41% likely to be obese as adults, whereas kids without ADHD symptoms were only 34% likely to be obese (still an appalling number - these are young adults, after all, with a mean age at the last wave of the study of 28.9 years), and the more ADHD symptoms you had, the more likely you were to be obese - those with three or more inattentive or hyperactive symptoms were 50% more likely to be obese as adults.

The discussion is interesting.  If you made it through my post on antidepressants and weight, you might have noted that antidepressants that jacked up the dopamine response (especially wellbutrin) seemed to make you skinnier over time.  Well, ADHD is associated with a decrease in the ability of the brain to handle dopamine.  Here's a pertinent quote from the study:

"Genetic association studies have found that ADHD and obesity are both associated with genes regulating dopamine availability.50 Furthermore, in two separate studies using Positron emission tomography with [11C]raclopride, Volkow et al.52 have shown that individuals with ADHD50 and those who are obese both show lower than normal dopamine (D2) receptor availability. This lower dopamine receptor availability could reflect the common dispositions in both ADHD and obesity."

I have some more theories.  As we know, ADHD is associated with food additives and a genetic vulnerability to highly processed diets.   It is possible that many (certainly not all!! ) kids who have symptoms of ADHD also are in that segment of the population who don't give a crap about their diets.  Oh yeah, there's been a study about that.  And I'm guessing, Twinkies aside, that highly processed food diets are associated with more obesity.  A nonscientific perusal of grocery carts might give you that information.

And then, of course, there is the fact that having ADHD is stressful, and one might end up with depression or anxiety, and then be more vulnerable to obesity via the inflammation pathway.

The answer is always the same (low stress primal diet and lifestyle) because the causes all boil down to the same thing.  Eat what you are designed to eat, exercise, and chill out when you get the chance.  Enjoy family and friends.  Live and love.   When things are already deranged it may not be a cure, but in most cases it sure will help.

1 comment:

  1. Another idea is that people with ADHD are often impulsive, poor at planning and find cooking tedious and repetitive -- all potential contributors to eating poorly and plentifully.

    Similarly, trouble with motivation and organization can make it hard for many to exercise on any regular basis.

    ReplyDelete