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Paediatric Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and Obesity

In 2017 I had the privilege of presenting research at the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine conference in Sydney, Australia.

I thought it may be valuable to share the findings...

Prevention of childhood obesity has become the number one public health priority across the developed world. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing one of the major chronic diseases such as: Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary, hepatic, renal and musculoskeletal complications, and lower health-related quality of life.

Research has shown a link between obesity and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) in children.

Children with ADHD are twice as likely as their matched non-AD/HD peers to be overweight or obese.

According to two separate Cochrane Reviews, lifestyle programs “can reduce the level of overweight in child and adolescent obesity” and “could benefit overweight and obese children specifically in overall achievement, mathematics, memory and specific thinking skills.”

Results from the Raine Study revealed that AD/HD is associated with a "Western” dietary pattern that includes: take away foods, processed meats, confectionary, French fries, refined grains, high-fat dairy products and soft drinks.

Conversely, the Raine Study revealed that a healthy diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and fish was not associated with AD/HD.

There is emerging support for the role of exercise in AD/HD. A variety of physical activities have shown positive results in terms of improving behavioural and learning outcomes for these children.

As such, physical activity has the potential to positively influence physical well-being by reducing weight.

Activities that have shown positive outcomes for children with AD/HD are aerobic activity; yoga; table tennis; swimming; exercise in green natural spaces and before-school physical activities such as skipping, running, hopping and crab-walking.

Furthermore, behavioural modification therapy, utilizing warm authoritative parenting styles, have been shown to have a positive effect in reducing body mass index and improving quality of life measures in obese children with AD/HD.

Lifestyle programs that include physical activity, healthy eating, reduction in sedentary activities, combined with behavioural interventions can and do impact the outcomes for obese children with AD/HD and without AD/HD.

In conclusion, healthy lifestyle activities should be considered as part of a holistic approach in the management of children with AD/HD.

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