A new study has found people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and ADHD are more likely than the general population to eat and drink in a way that is harmful to their health and can even be dangerous for them.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore found that people with ADHD were more likely – and more likely with the disorder – to eat or drink excessively and were less likely to be physically active.
The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
In their study, which involved the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the researchers found that participants with ADHD had a 10 per cent increased risk of obesity compared to the general adult population.
The researchers also found that those with ADHD who had been overweight for the previous 12 months were also more likely in the study to have eaten and/or drunk excessively and reported higher levels of symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The findings are particularly worrying as obesity is a significant public health problem and obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease have a higher death rate than the average person.
Dr Elizabeth Meech, lead author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns, said the findings highlighted a major risk factor for poor mental health and unhealthy eating habits.
“We’re looking at obesity in people with disabilities and we know that people who have disabilities, like autism and attention deficit disorder, have more risk factors for obesity, including being overweight, having diabetes, being overweight and having hypertension,” Dr Meeches said.
“The more that we can identify and understand the specific health risks associated with these disorders and the more research we do on these disorders, we can make better and safer decisions for people.”
Dr Meechuk said it was important to note that the study had to be interpreted in the context of the general obesity rate.
“I would say that the risk of overeating in people who are obese and in general has been rising,” she said.
“But we know in our clinical practice that the prevalence of obesity in the general community is low, so we don’t have the evidence that people are more prone to overeating and that obesity is associated with overeating.”
Dr David Fischler, director of research and development at NIAAA, said:”We know that a lot of people with the attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder are obese, and people with this disorder have been over-consuming alcohol and other substances.”
“If you look at the general public, the prevalence in the United States is less than one per cent, and that’s a big difference to the prevalence among people with ASD and other attention deficit disorders.”
Dr Fischlers research also showed that people on medication for ADHD were less inclined to overest and that people without ADHD were at a higher risk of having high blood pressure.
“So this research has really raised a lot more questions about the way in which the brain works, and how we should be treating people who suffer from these conditions,” Dr Fischels said.
Professor James Mee, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a co-author of the study, said that while the study was limited, it showed that the association between eating and health was more complicated than previously thought.
“When you look to what people have known and thought about ADHD and obesity, and what we’ve seen over the last 15 years or so, there’s this assumption that the people who eat are the bad people,” he said.
He said that there was an important distinction between people who were obese and people who did not have obesity.
“If a person has obesity, it is their own fault,” he added.
“It’s their body.
If a person doesn’t have obesity, they’re not in this problem.”
And there are plenty of things that people can do to lower their risk of developing the condition.