Children With ADHD At Higher Risk for Eating Disorder

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Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are at an increased risk of developing an eating disorder similar to binge eating.

Shauna P. Reinblatt, MD, an assistant professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues recruited 79 children between the ages of 8 and 14, both with and without ADHD.

All participants underwent psychological testing to evaluate how well they could control impulses. In one test, the children were told to press a key when a green spaceship appeared on a screen, but not when a red one appeared. The more incorrect responses, the more impulse control deficits the child was deemed to have.

The reason for this kind of test is that researchers believe there is a link between impulsivity in ADHD and loss of control in eating.

Children with ADHD had 12 times higher odds of being diagnosed with loss of control eating syndrome (LOC-ES), the researchers reported in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Children who were obese or overweight and had LOC-ES were also seven times more likely to have ADHD, compared to overweight peers without LOC-ES.

Reinblatt suggested that clinicians should screen for both ADHD and LOC-ES in children.

Children With ADHD At Higher Risk for Eating Disorder
Children With ADHD At Higher Risk for Eating Disorder

Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, are significantly more likely to have an eating disorder — a loss of control eating syndrome — akin to binge eating, a condition more generally diagnosed only in adults, according to results of a new Johns Hopkins Children's Center study. The findings, reported in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, suggest a common biological mechanism linking the two disorders, and the potential for developing treatment that works for both.

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, explains study leader Shauna P. Reinblatt, MD, 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.
 

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