Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder At A Higher Risk For Binge Eating

Children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, are at a higher than average risk of developing an eating disorder. Specifically, these children are more prone to have loss of control eating syndrome (LOC-ES), much like binge eating, a condition most commonly diagnosed in adults. This information comes from a study done by Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. The findings were reported ahead of going to print in the April 2016 edition of the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

The Results of the Study

Though many youngsters with ADHD might lose weight due to treatment from stimulant drugs prescribed to control the symptoms, ADHD has also been associated with children being overweight and obese. The precise cause of the extra weight has not been discovered, however, experts have suspected there may be a link between the hallmark impulsivity of ADHD and dysregulation, which is the loss of control over ones appetite and food consumption.

To find out more information about the possible connection, Dr. Shauna P. Reinblatt an assistant professor in child psychology at the university, and her colleagues recruited 79 children between the ages of 8 and 14. The team assessed each child and it included objective measures and interviews. The researchers also incorporated parental reports to help diagnose or rule out ADHD or LOC-ES. Both conditions are marked by an inability to stop eating, even if someone might want too. In addition, all the children in the study underwent a neuropsychological test to measure their impulse control abilities.

Dr. Reinblatt and her team discovered the odds of having LOC-ES were about 12 times higher for children with ADHD, when compared to children without the disorder. Further, children who were overweight or obese and had seven times the odds of having ADHD, when compared to overweight children or obese children without LOC-ES. When the researchers looked at the impulsivity rates in children regardless of an ADHD diagnosis, they discovered that the odds of having LOC-ES rose with incremental increases in scores on two different tests for impulsivity.


The findings of the study allude to a link between ADHD and disinhibited eating, although Dr. Reinblatt says the roots of the underlying connection remains obscure and requires additional research. Though more research is needed to explain the mechanism of action behind these findings, she said, clinicians should screen for both ADHD and disinhibited eating behaviors, such as LOC-ES.

In closing she states, “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.”

The work for the study was funded by the National Institutes of Health through a grant.

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