ADHD increases risk of becoming obese

With the incidence of obesity increasing steadily, much research has been undertaken to try and identify those people who are most likely to become obese so measures can be taken to avoid excessive weight gain, since it is easier to prevent than to reverse. New research indicates that having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can put an individual at a greater risk of obesity.


Obesity is associated with a range of serious health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that over the last two decades, the number of overweight children has increased by more than 50% percent.

ADHD is the most common behavioral disorder in children, affecting 3‑5%. It causes problems with lack of concentration, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, which can affect social interactions, work or school productivity and self-esteem. People with ADHD often misinterpret a range of confusing feelings as being hunger, which may lead to compulsive eating

There have been several indications there may be a link between childhood ADHD and obesity so researchers at the Mayo Clinic conducted a study to investigate whether there was indeed an association between developing obesity and having a diagnosis of ADHD. They assessed 336 people who had childhood ADHD and 665 people who did not have ADHD. All the participants were born between 1976 to 1982 and the two groups were matched for age and gender. Details of weight, height and use of stimulant treatments were obtained from medical records.

This is the first population-based longitudinal study to examine the association between ADHD and development of obesity using ADHD cases and controls of both sexes derived from the same birth cohort.”

Dr Seema Kumar, pediatrician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Research Center.

The analysis showed that girls with childhood ADHD were twice as likely to become obese during childhood or adulthood than those without ADHD. Researchers also found that the use of stimulant medications in the treatment of ADHD did not affect the risk of developing obesity.

These findings indicate the need to increase awareness among female patients with ADHD, their caregivers and health care providers of the increased propensity for obesity in ADHD. All patients with ADHD should be told about obesity and its associated health risks and encouraged to adopt healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle to prevent obesity.

The Mayo Clinic research team is now researching the effect of specific psychiatric comorbidities that commonly arise in individuals with ADHD on the development of obesity.

Kate Bass

Written by

Kate Bass

Kate graduated from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with a biochemistry B.Sc. degree. She also has a natural flair for writing and enthusiasm for scientific communication, which made medical writing an obvious career choice. In her spare time, Kate enjoys walking in the hills with friends and travelling to learn more about different cultures around the world.


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