This article will highlight the discussion surrounding the association between obesity and ADHD symptoms. Could symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as inattention and compulsions, be a risk factor for obesity in adults and children?
The scientific links between obesity and ADHD will be highlighted in this article. We will also define and clarify what obesity and ADHD are.
Ways will be discussed to help those individuals with adulthood and childhood ADHD symptoms, like inattentiveness. Also how helping ADHD symptoms and making healthier choices can help individuals reach a healthy weight.
The statements and views in this article are of no direct reflection of Autism Parenting Magazine. We recommend discussing any questions with the individual’s doctor before making any changes to lifestyle.
What defines obesity?
Body Mass Index (BMI) is the calculation of a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) being divided by their height in meters (m). The higher the number, the higher the fat count is for the body and overall BMI.
Average range for an adult is 18.5 up to <25 BMI. When a BMI reaches 25 up to <30 it is considered overweight and obese is 30 or higher.
There are categories of obesity and they range from Class 1 up to Class 3. Class 3 is a BMI of 40 or more and is severe obesity.
What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
One of the most known neurodevelopmental disorders is ADHD. It is typically diagnosed in childhood and continues into adulthood.
The 3 commonalities of ADHD include:
- Inattention and difficulty paying attention
- Impulsive behaviors and outbursts
- High activity levels, inability to calm down
Some other symptoms to look for include:
- staring off and daydreaming
- fidgets, has a hard time sitting still
- carelessness and risky behaviors
- hard time making friends and sharing
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What is the connection between obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?
There have been studies and articles written about the correlation between ADHD and obesity. The article, “The Association between ADHD and Obesity: Intriguing, Progressively More Investigated, but Still Puzzling”, discusses the possibilities between the two.
There are not many definitive answers to this question. As the studies continue, it is important to note that there have been studies that have shown some shared factors between ADHD and obesity.
There is a significant association between ADHD and obesity risk in both male and females. In most cases, there haven’t been indications that point to one gender having a higher percentage of obesity and ADHD than the other.
Genetic and environmental factors have also been shown to be factors between the two. The prevalence of children diagnosed with ADHD that fall within the obese range typically has parents or other family members with both ADHD and obesity factors.
The risk factors of both ADHD and obesity can be worsened by:
- Sleeplessness and sleep apnea syndrome
Sleep is incredibly important for the brain and body functions and erratic sleeping habits can affect it. When someone has sleeping issues it can cause excessive daytime sleepiness. The best preventative for this is for individuals to practice good sleep hygiene.
- Poor Diet
Obese patients have been found to have bad eating patterns leading to eating disorders such as binge eating. Excessive amounts of eating and food intake can lead to food addiction.
- Lack of exercise and Inactivity
Physical inactivity caused either from excessive amounts of screen time or lack of interest related to depression or other psychological conditions, can cause weight gain.
Inflammation is found in both obese patients and those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and has negative effects on the body and brain.
All of the above factors are linked and found among individuals with both. It isn’t found within a conclusive study, there have been studies that have found the association between ADHD and obesity as listed in the above article.
How common is obesity among people diagnosed with ADHD?
Obesity has been found to be correlated to ADHD in adults, there have been at least 20 years of studies established. There haven’t been conclusions on how and why these connections exist in adults.
There haven’t been as clear findings in studies with childhood ADHD and obesity. The underlying behavioral symptoms that are related to both ADHD and obesity need further research.
How can individuals diagnosed with ADHD and are within the obese range help themselves?
The best way that people that have been diagnosed with ADHD can help themselves is to first receive an official ADHD diagnosis. That will help provide opportunities and support with treatments and ADHD medication, if necessary.
Once the individual has received the support for their ADHD diagnosis, some of the behaviors that are associated between ADHD and obesity can be acknowledged, like the connection between impulsive behavior and binge eating habits.
Such things as better eating habits, healthier food choices, an increase in physical activity, and practicing good sleeping habits. These habits can help weight loss and the decrease of inflammation in the body and brain.
Although there has been a correlation found between ADHD and obesity in adults, there is a way to help with the symptoms and individuals practicing healthy weight loss and reducing certain behaviors of ADHD.
There are ways that people can help themselves and improve how they feel overall that help them reach a healthy weight and reduce problematic behaviors associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The information within this article is a good starting point and there is a lot of research that has been done on the relationship between these two.
Doctors and other practitioners also have the knowledge and access to support and therapies that could help improve the overall quality of life for these individuals. The words of Francis Bacon ring true in the search of knowledge and understanding,
“Knowledge is power.“
CDC. (2022). Defining Adult Overweight and Obesity.
CDC. (2022). What is ADHD?
Cortese, S. (2019). The Association between ADHD and Obesity: Intriguing, Progressively More Investigated, but Still Puzzling.