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Men who had ADHD as kids may be more likely to be obese as adults

New research shows that men who had ADHD as children are twice as likely to be obese by the time they grow up than men who did not have the mental disorder as kids.

Even when socioeconomic factors were taken into account, men who had ADHD when they were younger still were more likely to be obese as adults, according to a new 30-year study published May 20 in Pediatrics.

"That really seems to be reflective of their early hyperactivity. It doesn't matter what their current diagnosis is so much, so we think these are longstanding issues that likely arose in early adolescence," study co-author Dr. Francisco Xavier Castellanos, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry in the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, told HealthDay.

ADHD, which stands for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is one of the most common childhood mental disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this month that 7 percent of U.S. children between the ages of 3 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, the most prevalent mental health diagnosis for kids. Another recent CDC report put that rate closer to 11 percent of kids between ages 4 and 17, with one in five boys receiving the diagnosis. ADHD also affects 4.4 percent of U.S. adults, the National Institutes of Health noted.

For the study, researchers studied 111 men who had been diagnosed with childhood hyperactivity and contacted them at ages 18, 25 and 41. By the time they were adults, 41 percent were obese. Only 22 percent of the control group, made up of people who didn't have hyperactivity as children, were obese.

At 41, the men who had ADHD in their youth had an average BMI of 30.1. The control group on the other hand had a BMI of 27.6. An individual who has a BMI score of over 25 is considered to be overweight, and a score of 30 or over is considered to be obese.

"We are paying attention to obesity more and more these days. It would make a lot of sense to perhaps emphasize that issue with boys who have ADHD as they move into adulthood, no matter what," Dr. Charles Shubin, director of pediatrics for Mercy Family Care, a division of Family Health Centers of Baltimore, Maryland, told MedPage Today.

"We would want to pay attention to anybody who's at risk for obesity and hopefully manage it," Shubin, who was not involved in the study, said.

The authors believe that men who had ADHD may have problems with impulse control and planning, which could make them more prone to poor eating habits and making bad food choices. They may also have problems setting a regular eating pattern.

ADD Grows Up 11:57

"It fits with other studies, and suggests that the inability to control one's impulses, the tendency to be relatively reward-driven, may represent a risk of obesity over time," Castellanos said.

ADHD symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior and over-activity, otherwise known as hyperactivity. There are three subtypes of ADHD: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive.

There is no known cause for ADHD, but scientists believe it may be caused by genetic and environmental factors. Brain injuries have sparked ADHD in some children, but the number of children with ADHD who have had a brain injury remains low. High sugar consumption has been speculated as a cause, but research has not linked the two.

The CDC has more information ADHD.

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