The study was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders and found that children with ADHD are more likely to have loss of control eating syndrome (LOC-ES), a condition more generally diagnosed only in adults. The findings suggest a common biological mechanism linking the two disorders, and the potential for developing treatment that works for both, researchers said.
Though many children with ADHD may lose weight when treated with the stimulant drugs regularly prescribed to control it, ADHD also has been associated with overweight and obesity in this population, said study leader Shauna P Reinblatt, assistant professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The cause of the excessive weight, however, has remained unclear, but experts have suspected a link between the hallmark impulsivity of ADHD and dysregulation or loss of control over appetite and food consumption. To investigate that possible connection, Reinblatt and colleagues recruited 79 children between the ages of 8 and 14 from the greater Baltimore area.(ADHD Drugs Increasingly Prescribed to Treat Hyperactivity in Pre-Schoolers)
Each of these children underwent assessment that included objective measures and interviews. Researchers also incorporated parental reports to help diagnose or rule out
ADHD or LOC-ES, the diagnostic criteria for which are similar to binge eating disorder in adults. Both conditions are marked by an inability to stop eating at times, even if one wants to. Additionally, all the participants underwent neuropsychological testing to measure how well they were able to control their impulses.
For example, in one test, participants were asked to press a key as soon as a green spaceship appeared on a computer screen but refrain from pressing a key when a red spaceship appeared. Children with more incorrect responses were deemed to have more deficits in impulse control and vice versa. Reinblatt and colleagues found that the odds of having LOC-ES were 12 times higher for children diagnosed with ADHD, compared with those without the disorder.
Furthermore, those who were overweight or obese and had LOC-ES had seven times the odds of also having ADHD, compared with overweight or obese children without LOC-ES. The findings point to a link between ADHD and disinhibited eating, although Reinblatt said, the roots of the underlying connection remain obscure and require additional research.
Children with ADHD who also have LOC-ES might have a more severe form of ADHD marked by more impulsive behaviour that particularly manifests in their eating patterns, Reinblatt said. Alternatively, children with both ADHD and LOC-ES might have a shared underlying risk factor, such as a genetic predisposition to impulsivity.
With inputs from PTI