UROS

UROS 2017 Project: Is a child’s composition related to their risk of having symptoms of Inattention and Hyperactivity Disorder

By Amy Moutell

 

Abstract

Many studies report an association between obesity and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This study aimed to examine whether fat mass or lean body mass is associated with ADHD symptoms and executive function, i.e. direct measures of attention. In order to do this, the height and waist of the child (aged between 6 and 11) was measured and this, along with their weight, was used to calculate their BMI and therefore their body fat percentage using the scales. Then, the child completed two executive functioning tasks. The results from this study show that, although it is a relatively small sample, having a higher percentage of body fat has no significant implication whether or not the child will have of ADHD.

Introduction

Many studies report an association between obesity and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  In two large-scale studies conducted by Prof Rodriguez and her team showed that difficulties with attention and obesity are inter-related in the period between childhood and adolescence. There are several factors that could link obesity with ADHD, for example, leptin (an appetite-regulation hormone) released by adipose tissue and a sugar-rich diet may contribute to ADHD-like behaviours. There are common biological systems, for example, dopamine and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), that are associated with ADHD, obesity, and physical inactivity, which further support the concept of a link among all of these conditions.  It may be the case that cognitive deficits and obesity are linked via sedentary behaviour, however, the studies that examine the association between ADHD and physical inactivity in children and/or adolescents have yielded conflicting results. There are no developmental studies investigating ADHD in children using measured body composition.

Method

Permission was gathered from parents allowing their child/children to participate. This was done by way of getting them to sign a consent form. Then, he height and waist of the child was measured and this, along with their weight, was used to calculate their BMI and therefore their body fat percentage using the scales. After this, two computerised executive functioning tasks were conducted to measure attention and the results recorded and stored on the computer.

Results

At this time, there seems to be no significant correlation between body fat percentage and ADHD.

Discussion

Overall there seems to be no significant correlation between body fat percentage and ADHD. However, this may have been because the sample size was relatively small. To combat this, a larger sample size should be collected by travelling to different schools during the school term time rather than during the holidays.

Khalife, N., Kantomaa, M., Glover, V., Tammelin, T., Laitinen, J., Ebeling, H., Rodriguez, A. (2014) showed that difficulties with attention and obesity are inter-related in the period between childhood and adolescence. There are several factors that could link obesity with ADHD, for example, leptin (an appetite-regulation hormone) released by adipose tissue and a sugar-rich diet may contribute to ADHD-like behaviours.  There are common biological systems, for example, dopamine and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), that are associated with ADHD, obesity, and physical inactivity, which further support the concept of a link among these conditions.  It may be the case that cognitive deficits and obesity are linked via sedentary behaviour, however, the studies that examine the association between ADHD and physical inactivity in children and/or adolescents have yielded conflicting results.

One problem that is present within this research is that there is firm evidence showing that reports of child weight by parents and self-reports by adolescents are biased.  Secondly, BMI, which is a measure of weight given height, does not account for differences in muscle mass contra adipose tissue. Therefore, our research is good as it uses the calculated body fat percentage rather than BMI which is a measure of excess weight, not excess body fat and it can be easily swayed by factors such as age and sex.

At this time it can be said that more research needs to be done in this area because children undergo considerable growth from early to mid-childhood therefore, it is important to assess if and at what age body composition and inattention (measured by executive function and parental report of ADHD) are related.

References

Khalife, N., Kantomaa, M., Glover, V., Tammelin, T., Laitinen, J., Ebeling, H., . . . Rodriguez, A. (2014). Childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms are risk factors for obesity and physical inactivity in adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 53(4), 425-436.

 

*To view Amy’s project poster, please click on the thumbnail below