Children With ADHD Are At Higher Risk For Eating Disorder

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Many medications prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity are associated with weight loss, but past research has shown a strong association between ADHD and obesity or being overweight. Now, we may know why.

Eating BoyA new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders has found that children with ADHD may be more likely than other children to also have loss of control eating syndrome, an eating disorder similar to binge eating disorder. The findings also suggest there may be an underlying biological mechanism linking the conditions.

Loss of control eating syndrome (LOC-ES) is a condition that shares many diagnostic criteria as binge eating disorder and is characterized by an inability to stop eating at certain times. Many experts believe obesity is common in children with ADHD due to a connection between impulsive behaviors and a loss of control over food consumption.

For the study, the researchers – led by Dr. Shauna Reinblatt, assistant professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine – recruited and evaluated 79 children between the ages of 8 to 14 to explore the potential existence of such a connection.

To assess the children, each was given several tests, interviews, and parental reports focused on diagnosing or discounting ADHD and LOC-ES. The researchers also conducted neuropsychological tests to measure the children’s ability to control their impulses.

The findings of the study show the children with ADHD were more than 12 times more likely to have LOC-ES in comparison with children without ADHD. Overweight or obese children with LOC-ES were also seven times more likely to also have ADHD compared to those overweight children without LOC-ES. Tests also indicated that children were more likely to have LOC-ES the less impulse control they showed.

Ultimately, the findings suggest a link exists between ADHD and LOC-ES, but the findings could not locate the exact connection. Nonetheless, Dr. Reinblatt says she believes clinicians should screen children for LOC-ES alongside ADHD.

“Our findings underscore the need for developing new treatment strategies that could help target disinhibited eating in kids who have both ADHD and LOC-ES,” Dr. Reinblatt concludes.

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