A new study conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic suggests that female children who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to become obese later in life compared to children who do not have the condition.

Dr. Seema Kumar and her colleagues at Mayo Clinic's Children's Research Center examined how childhood ADHD is connected with obesity risk by analyzing the results of previous cases of the condition and controls of both male and female children taken from the same birth cohort.

The researchers collected data from 336 children diagnosed with ADHD who were born between 1976 and 1982. They then compared their findings with those taken from 665 non-ADHD children from the same age group and gender that served as the controls for the study.

Measurements for the participants' height, weight and stimulant treatment were taken from medical records that contained care details from January 1976 to August 2010. The researchers also used Cox models in order to determine the relationship between childhood ADHD and obesity.

Kumar and her team discovered that female participants who had ADHD experienced a twofold higher risk for obesity throughout their childhood and adult lives compared to those who did not have the condition.

They also found that children who received stimulant treatment for their ADHD did not experience any increased risk of obesity as a result of the procedure.

"Females with ADHD are at risk of developing obesity during adulthood, and stimulant medications used to treat ADHD do not appear to alter that risk," Kumar said (PDF).

Kumar explained that it is important for patients with ADHD as well as their health care providers and caregivers to become more aware of the potential relationship between the condition and obesity, especially among females.

The researchers advise ADHD sufferers to take part in preventive measures, such as eating healthy and practicing a more active lifestyle, in order to lower their risk for obesity.

Kumar and her colleagues now plan to conduct further research regarding the impact of certain psychiatric disorders associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on the progression of obesity in patients.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines ADHD as a childhood disorder that often prevents individuals from being able to focus or pay attention to certain tasks and control their own behavior because of hyperactivity.

If not properly addressed, a child with the ADHD may continue to have such over-active behaviors through their adolescence and even their adulthood.

The findings of the Mayo Clinic study are featured in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Photo: Tony Alter | Flickr

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