September 22, 2015
1 min read

Meta-analysis shows significant association between ADHD, obesity in children, adults

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Results from a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Psychiatry indicated a significant association between obesity and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder among children and adults.

“The putative association between ADHD and obesity might seem paradoxical because, rather than being hyperactive, individuals with obesity are often described as ‘lazy.’ However, the impulsivity and inattention that characterize ADHD might lead to dysregulated eating patterns with consequent weight gain,” Samuele Cortese, MD, PhD, of the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, and colleagues wrote. “The role of possible confounders, including low socioeconomic status and comorbid mental health conditions, in explaining the association between obesity and ADHD is still unclear. In addition, the role of age, gender, study setting, or study country is also uncertain.”

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 42 studies to assess the association between ADHD and obesity. The analysis included 728,136 study participants, of which 48,161 had ADHD.

Researchers found a significant association between obesity and ADHD among children (OR = 1.2; 95% CI, 1.05-1.37) and adults (OR = 1.55; 95% CI, 1.32-1.81).

Pooled prevalence of obesity increased by approximately 70% for adults with ADHD compared with those without ADHD, and by approximately 40% for children with ADHD vs. those without ADHD.

The significant association between obesity and ADHD remained when limited to studies that adjusted for potential confounding factors, diagnosed ADHD by direct interview and directly measured height and weight.

Researchers also found a significant association between ADHD and overweight.

Individuals medicated for ADHD did not have a higher risk for obesity.

“We found meta-analytic evidence of a significant association between obesity/overweight and ADHD, regardless of possible confounders. Mediational effects and causal mechanisms underlying the association, as well as the long-term effects of ADHD medications on weight status in individuals with obesity and ADHD, deserve further attention because of their important public health implications,” the researchers concluded.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: Cortese reports receiving royalties from Aargon Healthcare Italy for online educational activity. Please see the full study for a list of all authors’ relevant financial disclosures.