Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 21st 2014 Contents A28
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, March 21, 2014
Stimulant medications, rather than the childhood
ADHD they are used to treat, could be linked to
weight gain during the teenage years, according to
a new analysis of medical records.
As of 2011, 11 per cent of US kids ages four to 17
had been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About
half of those kids were taking stimulant medications
like Adderall or Ritalin.
Previous studies suggested ADHD could be a risk
factor for childhood and adult obesity. But this is the
first to tie their medication use to later weight gain,
Dr Brian S Schwartz told Reuters Health.
Schwartz worked on the new study at the Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Bal-
timore. He said the results change researchers under-
standing of how ADHD relates to obesity.
In his study, kids who had taken stimulant med-
ications at a younger age tended to have a "rebound"
in weight gain as teens, even after they stopped taking
the medication. But researchers said it s not clear
why the drugs might cause this delayed jump in
The authors tracked the electronic health records
of more than 150,000 children ages three to 18, noting
those diagnosed with ADHD, if and when they were
treated with stimulant medications and their body
mass index (BMI) over time. BMI measures weight
in relation to height.
Kids tended to start taking stimulant medications
before age ten. Half of the kids took the drugs for
less than six months.
Kids with ADHD who were not treated with stim-
ulants tended to initially have a higher BMI than kids
without ADHD or those treated with stimulants,
according to results published in Pediatrics.
But the difference was small, so parents shouldn t
think stimulants are helping keep kids weight down
when they are young, Schwartz said.
What s more, kids treated with stimulants appeared
to gain more weight in their teen years and ended
up with a BMI higher than that of youths without
ADHD or past stimulant use.
The earlier kids started on stimulants, the earlier
and higher their BMIs appeared to rebound upward
"Stimulant-treated ADHD kids had slower BMI
growth in early childhood and faster BMI growth in
later childhood. These effects were much larger than
the ADHD alone effects," Schwartz said.
These findings "point a much stronger finger of
concern at stimulant use in accounting for the obesity
than they do at ADHD itself," Schwartz said. "We
believe the treatment is the problem, not the diagnosis
Stimulants may keep weight down at first, he said,
because they usually suppress appetite. In fact, the
drugs used to treat obesity in recent years have been
similar to ADHD drugs, or exactly the same, he said.
Schwartz and his coauthors speculate that stimulant
medications may retard growth at first, until the
body develops resistance to growth inhibition and
But Stephen V Faraone, who studies ADHD at
SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse and
was not involved with the study, believes it is too
soon to say stimulants cause the rebound.
It is possible that longer-term stimulant use leads
to obesity later on, he told Reuters Health in an e-
mail. "But this assumes that, for example, patients
with ten years of (stimulant) treatment have the same
severity of illness as those with one to two months
of treatment," Faraone said. "Clearly, that is not the
It could be that kids with the worst ADHD symp-
ADHD medications tied
to teenage weight gain
toms end up on medication earlier or for longer, and
when they go off the medication their ADHD symp-
toms return and lead to obesity-inducing behaviours,
like overeating, he said.
That would mean the ADHD itself, not the med-
ication, leads to weight gain. The data are still stronger
for that theory, he said.
"The observation of rebound is important, even
though we cannot be sure how to explain it," Faraone
said. (Reuters Health)
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Stimulant-treated ADHD kids had slower BMI growth in early childhood and
faster BMI growth in later childhood.
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