ADHD

Updated 12 July 2017

ADHD kids at higher obesity risk

Children with symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at increased risk for obesity in adulthood, a new study claims.

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Children with symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at increased risk for obesity in adulthood, a new study claims.

Having three or more of any of the symptoms of ADHD - such as inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity - significantly increases the chances of being obese, according to researchers from Duke University Medical Center, who examined federal data on 15,197 adolescents followed from 1995 to 2009.

"It's not just the diagnosis of ADHD that matters; it's the symptoms," study co-author Scott Kollins, director of the Duke ADHD Program, said.

Another study author agreed, adding that the more symptoms, the higher the risk.

More symptoms, higher risk

"It's a dose effect. We showed that as the number of symptoms increase, the prevalence of obesity also increases," said study co-author Bernard Fuemmeler, director of the Pediatric Psychology & Family Health Promotion Lab in the Department of Community and Family Medicine.

Even among children with only symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsiveness - the most influential of the risk factors studied - the risk of obesity rose to 63%. These symptoms were also associated with greater weight gain in the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

The data on the teens came from the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

"The findings support the idea that certain self-regulation capacities, like the ability to regulate one's impulses, could be a relevant trait to understanding why some people may be more vulnerable to obesity," Fuemmeler said, adding that this might help with the design of interventions.

The study appears online in the International Journal of Obesity.


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Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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