As for Ritalin and other medications used for ADHD, their association with weight is well-established, Katz said. "The answer here is to identify root causes of ADHD, so fewer children wind up needing medical treatment in the first place," he said.
Dr. David W. Goodman, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, agreed that, "the study confirms what has been known before."
Goodman contends that there is an association between obesity and ADHD, but whether it's one of cause-and-effect is unclear. "You don't have any causal link, but you can say it's a strong statistical correlation," he said.
That about one in five ADHD children are overweight is interesting but not necessarily clinically relevant, Goodman added. "We are talking about a 1.5 [times] increased risk. That's eyebrow-raising but not heart-stopping," he said.
However, Goodman believes that parents of children with ADHD should be concerned about their diet and understand that these youngsters are at higher risk of becoming obese.
"Pediatricians of newly diagnosed children with ADHD should advise parents of the risk factors for weight gain and obesity," Goodman said. "This is not simply an educational disorder, this is a disorder that affects a broad range of domains in one's life."
For more information on ADHD, visit the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
SOURCES: David W. Goodman, M.D., assistant professor, department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore; David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director, Prevention Research
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