Does Maternal Obesity Promote ADHD?

Regular readers of my blog know about the risk of increased pre-pregnancy weight and pregnancy-induced weight gain for mother and child.

Readers may also recall my posting on the potential importance of recognizing attention deficit disorder (ADD) as a common and important barrier to obesity treatment.

This month, a new study by Alina Rodriguez and colleagues from the University of Upsalla, Sweden, published in the International Journal of Obesity, may help bring it all together.

Rodriguez and colleagues examined whether pregnancy weight (pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and/or weight gain) is related to core symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in school-age offspring.

They analyzed data from three separate prospective pregnancy cohorts from Sweden, Denmark and Finland within the Nordic Network on ADHD. Maternal pregnancy and delivery data were collected prospectively. Teachers rated inattention and hyperactivity symptoms 12 556 school-aged offspring in relationship to maternal weight measures.

While gestational weight gain was unrelated to ADHD rate, the researchers found significant associations between pre-pregnancy overweight or obesity and a high ADHD symptom score in offspring, ORs ranged between 1.4 and 1.9 fold higher despite adjustment for gestational age, birth weight, weight gain, pregnancy smoking, maternal age, maternal education, child gender, family structure and cohort country of origin.

Children of women who were both overweight and gained a large amount of weight during gestation had a 2-fold risk of ADHD symptoms compared to normal-weight women.

Although the authors carefully note that associations do not prove causality, they do point out that if future studies prove causality, then we may need to add ADHD to the list of deleterious outcomes related to maternal overweight and obesity in the prenatal period.

It would certainly explain why ADHD is so common in patients battling overweight and obesity.

Edmonton, Alberta