Mayo Clinic Researchers Find Link Between Obesity, ADHD, Among Females

The findings are troubling in light of other recent findings that connect obesity during pregnancy with autism.

A long-term study following a group of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for a generation has found an association between the disorder and obesity among females, according to a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

While other researchers have suggested a connection between ADHD and obesity, this study stands apart: “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,” said lead author Seema Kumar, MD, a pediatrician at Mayo Clinic Children’s Research Center.

Starting with 336 people with childhood ADHD born between 1976 and 1982, researchers matched the group with 665 controls of the same age and gender who did not have ADHD. Weight, height, and measures of stimulant treatments—the common therapy for ADHD—were culled from medical records starting on January 1, 1976, through August 31, 2010. Researchers used Cox models to assess the link between ADHD and obesity.

Females were found to have a 2-fold greater risk of developing obesity in adulthood, compared with females without the disorder. Obesity was associated with those who had stimulant treatment during childhood, but things changed afterward. “Females with ADHD are at risk of developing obesity during adulthood,” Kumar said, and stimulants “do not appear to alter that risk.”

Kumar and her team are now researching the effect of specific psychiatric comorbidities seen in patients with ADHD on the development of obesity. The findings have major implications, given what other studies are showing about the effect of obesity on fetal development—a separate study just showed a link between maternal obesity and diabetes, and autism.

The best advice is to build greater awareness and encourage healthier lifestyles, especially better diet and exercise, Kumar said.


Castaneda RLA, Kumar S, Voigt RG, et al. Childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, sex, and obesity: a longitudinal population-based study [published online February 4, 2016]. Mayo Clin Proc. 2016; DOI:

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