Co-occurring weight problems among children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: the role of executive functioning

Int J Obes (Lond). 2012 Apr;36(4):567-72. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2011.245. Epub 2011 Dec 13.


Objective: To explore the link between pediatric obesity and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by examining whether executive functioning (EF) and medication status are associated with body mass index (BMI) and weight status in children with ADHD.

Method: Participants for this study included 80 children (mean age=10 years, 9 months) with a DSM-IV diagnosis of ADHD, confirmed by a comprehensive clinical diagnostic assessment. Children's EF was measured using three neuropsychological tests, and severity of ADHD symptoms and medication status were obtained from parent report. Children's height and weight were also measured during the visit using a wall-mounted stadiometer and a balance beam scale.

Results: Children with ADHD who performed poorly on the neuropsychological battery had greater BMI z-scores, and were more likely to be classified as overweight/obese compared with children with ADHD who performed better on the neuropsychological battery. In addition, children with ADHD who were taking a stimulant medication had significantly lower BMI z-scores compared with children with ADHD who were not taking medication or who were taking a non-stimulant medication.

Conclusion: EF is more impaired among children with ADHD and co-occurring weight problems, highlighting the importance of self-regulation as a link between pediatric obesity and ADHD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Executive Function / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Control, Informal
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Psychotropic Drugs