Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Preventing Obesity, Part Three: ADHD and Obesity

My two earlier blogs on obesity generated lots of discussion on Facebook and throughout our chapter networks. One chapter leader shared an article by blogger Zoe Kessler on the connection between undiagnosed and untreated ADHD as a “contributing factor in a significant number of cases of severe obesity,” especially in women.

Two professional journal articles addressing this subject can be found in the online library of the National Resource Center on ADHD, a program of CHADD supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

1. Fleming, Levy, and Levitan in a March 2005 issue of Eating Weight Disorders reported that 26.7 percent of severely obese women and girls had significant ADHD.
2. Levy, Fleming, and Klar in the February 17, 2009 issue of the International Journal of Obesity reported significant co-occurring ADHD, obesity, sleep apnea, binge eating, and mood disorder. They recommend that individuals seeking medical or surgical weight loss have an ADHD assessment.

The science has not yet adequately researched and published these relationships. Zoe Kessler speculates that one contributing factor to the relationship between ADHD and obesity is the lack of self-regulation and impulse control in ADHD when related to diet and food consumption. Another contributing factor, Kessler thinks, is the possibility that people who are undiagnosed and untreated for their ADHD seek to increase their dopamine levels in an effort to self-medicate their ADHD. Again, we need much more science to answer the questions about the relationship between ADHD and obesity.

I will continue to blog on this topic.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Preventing Obesity, Part Two: The Role of Physical Activity

My previous blog described how my 19-year-old son gained 40 pounds during his first year out of high school, even though he was enrolled in a supervised post-high school program for young adults with learning differences. One reason for his weight gain was a significant decline in physical activity.

My son played organized basketball throughout most of his school years. At his high school, he played organized team sports—soccer, basketball, and softball—throughout the school year. Once out of high school, he was unable to locate an arena for team sports. Like many young adults with special needs, my son, when left on his own, tends to stay in his apartment playing electronic games and watching TV. His post-high school program did not deliver on its promises to facilitate group physical activity.

In June, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that students with disabilities participate in athletics at consistently lower rates than students without disabilities. School officials across the nation indicated a lack of information on ways to expand athletic opportunities, a lack of clarity regarding schools’ responsibilities to provide such opportunities, and budget constraints. The GAO report is titled Students with Disabilities: More Information and Guidance Could Improve Opportunities in Physical Education and Athletics (GAO-10-519, June 23, 2010). GAO recommends that the U.S. Department of Education facilitate information sharing among states and schools in order to promote PE for students with disabilities.

Everyone needs regular physical activity. Our colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fund the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability. NCPAD states: "Indoor or outdoor, recreational or competitive, solo or team, easy or intensive, NCAPD has the resources, contacts, and assistance you need." I have worked with the NCPAD executive director for several years, and he is passionate about helping people with disabilities to be physically active.

NCAPD’s slogan is “Exercise is for EVERY body.” There are substantial health benefits to be gained from participating in regular physical activity. The CDC recommends that we examine the National Physical Activity Plan, which was produced by a private-public sector collaboration to promote physical activity in American life.

This is the second in a series of CHADD CEO blogs on preventing obesity and the relationship between obesity and disability.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Preventing Obesity

My 19-year-old son came home from his first year in a structured post-high school program having gained 40 pounds. This was in a structured program, where once a week each apartment resident prepares a supervised dinner for his or her roommates—and where students participate in a wellness program. A 2008 National Center on Health Statistics report documented that among adults with a disability, 35.6 percent were obese, compared with 22.7 percent of adults without a disability.

Reducing and preventing obesity is a priority of First Lady Michelle Obama. On June 29, Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released their seventh annual obesity report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2010.

CHADD is recognized and financed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to operate the National Resource Center on ADHD (NRC). Reducing and preventing obesity is a priority public health objective of the current CDC director. I will prepare my next several blogs on the connection between obesity and disability. One of the situations I will spend some time discussing is the relationship between consumption of unhealthy products and social isolation experienced by many people with ADHD and other disabilities.

At home this summer, my son has lost 13 pounds, participates in a regular exercise program with a trainer, and is practicing healthier eating. Whether these habits can be sustained when he returns to school in late August will be a challenge.

We all need to better focus on good health habits. Their relationship to ADHD and disability will be discussed in coming blogs.