Navigation Links
Is there a link between childhood obesity and ADHD, learning disabilities?

URBANA A University of Illinois study has established a possible link between high-fat diets and such childhood brain-based conditions as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and memory-dependent learning disabilities.

"We found that a high-fat diet rapidly affected dopamine metabolism in the brains of juvenile mice, triggering anxious behaviors and learning deficiencies. Interestingly, when methylphenidate (Ritalin) was administered, the learning and memory problems went away," said Gregory Freund, a professor in the U of I College of Medicine and a member of the university's Division of Nutritional Sciences.

The research was published in Psychoneuroendocrinology and is available pre-publication online at

Freund said that altered dopamine signaling in the brain is common to both ADHD and the overweight or obese state. "And an increase in the number of dopamine metabolites is associated with anxiety behaviors in children," he added.

Intrigued by the recent upsurge in both child obesity and adverse childhood psychological conditions, including impulsivity, depression, and ADHD, Freund's team examined the short-term effects of a high-fat (60% calories from fat) versus a low-fat (10% calories from fat) diet on the behavior of two groups of four-week-old mice. A typical Western diet contains from 35 to 45 percent fat, he said.

"After only one week of the high-fat diet, even before we were able to see any weight gain, the behavior of the mice in the first group began to change," he said.

Evidence of anxiety included increased burrowing and wheel running as well a reluctance to explore open spaces. The mice also developed learning and memory deficits, including decreased ability to negotiate a maze and impaired object recognition.

Switching mice from a high-fat to a low-fat diet restored memory in one week, he noted.

In mice that continued on the high-fat diet, impaired object recognition remained three weeks after the onset of symptoms. But Freund knows from other studies that brain biochemistry normalizes after 10 weeks as the body appears to compensate for the diet. At that point, brain dopamine has returned to normal, and mice have become obese and developed diabetes.

"Although the mice grow out of these anxious behaviors and learning deficiencies, the study suggests to me that a high-fat diet could trigger anxiety and memory disorders in a child who is genetically or environmentally susceptible to them," he said.

Because the animals adapt to the high-fat fare, the scientists also hypothesized that abruptly removing fat from the diet might negatively affect anxiety, learning, and memory.

The researchers had expected that the high-fat diet would stimulate inflammation, which is associated with obesity, but they saw no evidence of an inflammatory response in the brain after one or three weeks on the high-fat regimen.

Instead, they saw evidence that a high-fat diet initiates chemical responses that are similar to the ones seen in addiction, with dopamine, the chemical important to the addict's pleasurable experiences, increasing in the brain.


Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Related biology news :

1. Data paper describes Antarctic biodiversity data gathered by 90 expeditions since 1956
2. Is there a Neanderthal in the house?
3. Cooperators can coexist with cheaters, as long as there is room to grow
4. International study: Where theres smoke or smog, theres climate change
5. Bumblebees do best where there is less pavement and more floral diversity
6. Why are there so many species of beetles and so few crocodiles?
7. Overweight? Theres a vaccine for that
8. Feathered saurians -- downy dinosaur discovered
9. Theres more star-stuff out there but its not dark matter
10. UGA study finds theres not always safety in numbers when it comes to extinction risk
11. Professor known for work with hunter-gatherers elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/1/2016)... YORK , June 1, 2016 ... Technology in Election Administration and Criminal Identification to Boost ... to a recently released TechSci Research report, " Global ... By Region, Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 - 2021", ... 24.8 billion by 2021, on account of growing security ...
(Date:5/20/2016)... MINNEAPOLIS , May 20, 2016  VoiceIt ... technology partnership with VoicePass. By working ... user experience.  Because VoiceIt and VoicePass take slightly ... two engines increases both security and usability. ... expressed excitement about this new partnership. ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... DALLAS , May 12, 2016 ... has just published the overview results from the Q1 ... of the recent wave was consumers, receptivity to a ... wearables data with a health insurance company. ... choose to share," says Michael LaColla , CEO ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... While the majority of commercial spectrophotometers and fluorometers ... the 6000i models are higher end machines that use the more unconventional z-dimension of ... beam from the bottom of the cuvette holder. , FireflySci has developed several ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Mosio, a leader in clinical research patient ... and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced clinical research professionals, Mosio revisits the hurdle ... and strategies for clinical researchers. , “The landscape of how patients receive and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   Boston ... of novel compounds designed to target cancer stemness ... has been granted Orphan Drug Designation from the ... treatment of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) ... inhibitor designed to inhibit cancer stemness pathways by ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Md. , June 23, 2016 A person ... from the crime scene to track the criminal down. ... the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA ... sequencing to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply ...
Breaking Biology Technology: