Study Links Childhood ADHD With Eating Disorders

By McCarton Ackerman 05/01/15

A new study found that kids with ADHD may be more prone to loss of control eating syndrome.

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Although it may seem that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and eating disorders are completely separate issues, a new study has linked the two by suggesting that children with ADHD are more likely to develop an eating disorder.

The findings, which were published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, report that kids with ADHD are at greater risk of developing loss of control eating syndrome (LOC-ES), a condition similar to binge eating.

Dr. Shauna Reinblatt, assistant professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led her team as they assessed 79 children ages 8-14 for the project.

The scientists concluded that those kids with ADHD were 12 times more likely to develop LOC-ES than the children who did not. Conversely, overweight or obese children with a LOC-ES were seven times more likely to have ADHD than overweight or obese children who did not.

Reinblatt suggested that kids with both ADHD and LOC-ES might have a more severe form of ADHD which further increases impulsive behaviors and could impact their eating habits. They could also have a genetic predisposition to impulsive behavior.

"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," she wrote. Reinblatt advised that until more research has been conducted, doctors should screen children for disinhibited eating behaviors alongside ADHD.

Although the stimulant drugs commonly used to manage ADHD are often associated with weight loss in children, medical experts have linked ADHD to obesity in other studies. Data has also linked ADHD with binge eating disorders in adults.

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that about 11% of American children ages 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, or 6.4 million in total.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.