Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Attention-deficit disorder linked to obesity

( this picture of me was taken at my top weight of 365 pounds, on September 26, 2007)

I read this really interesting article was in today’s Globe and Mail, and I thought it would extremely helpful for a lot of people to see and read!

Globe and Mail - Canada's National Newspaper
March 24, 2009 at 10:02 AM EDT

Paige Gilmore used to be so large she couldn't buckle up a seat belt in a car, or go on a roller-coaster ride with her son. No chair was big enough to hold her 420-pound, 5-foot-7-inch frame.
Dieting had never helped Ms. Gilmore, who has been overweight since the age of 9. "Once you get past 350 pounds, you can't even be weighed on a regular scale," she said. "I was desperate. I was hiding food and eating it for comfort. It was like a tic."

Then her doctor made an astonishing discovery - one that is revolutionizing the way morbidly obese people are treated, and viewed by society.
He diagnosed her with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a neuro-developmental irregularity that causes people to behave impulsively and seek constant stimulation. They nibble to counter feelings of restlessness, explains her physician, Lance Levy, a Toronto specialist in nutritional medicine.

Paige Gilmore's doctor made an astonishing discovery - one that is revolutionizing the way morbidly obese people are treated, and viewed by society. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

"ADHD is a primary cause of failing to lose weight for tens of thousands of people," said Dr. Levy, who is with the Nutritional and Eating Disorders Clinic. "Obese people are three to five times more likely to have it than the regular population. And if you treat them, you will see a significant weight loss."Dr. Levy and his co-authors - psychologist John Fleming and dietitian Doreen Klar - have just published their groundbreaking research in the International Journal of Obesity, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

Their study of 242 obese patients found that 32 per cent had ADHD, compared with 4 to 7 per cent in the general population. When treated for ADHD, the patients were able to lose 12 per cent of their body weight within 14 months. These patients, who were given psycho-stimulants to increase the dopamine in their brains, had tried and failed to lose weight for at least a decade.

Obese people with ADHD cannot respond to the signals in their brains that tell them when they are hungry and when they are full. "Their stomachs stretch and they can tolerate a degree of fullness that would make the average person throw up," Dr. Levy said.

Someone who weighs 420 pounds has to eat about 3,200 calories a day just to maintain that weight. They often suffer from other health issues, including depression, sleep disorders, chronic pain and gastrointestinal problems.
Ms. Gilmore, now 41, calls the diagnosis "a gift" that has changed every aspect of her life. "I used to eat to calm myself down. It was a way to self-medicate," she said. "I don't even remember how much I used to eat."
Weight-loss programs stressing lifestyle and dietary changes didn't work for her because she didn't have the perseverance to follow them.

After being diagnosed with ADHD in 2004, Ms. Gilmore was able to stabilize her health and reduce her blood pressure enough to be a candidate for gastric bypass surgery, which she had two years later.
At 225 pounds today, she is half of her former self. She no longer suffers from sleep apnea, diabetes or high blood pressure. And she has learned to read the hunger cues her brain sends out, and no longer binges on potato chips and chocolate bars, or eats over-large portions.

Better able to concentrate at work, she has also been promoted to administrative assistant in her role with the federal government. Even the nail biting has stopped.
Ms. Gilmore was never screened for ADHD as a child because there was a perception the disorder afflicted only young boys who acted out in class.

"I associated it with people running around crazily. I never imagined it was something I have," she said. "In high school I was labelled a daydreamer and lazy."

Yet all the classic symptoms were there: difficulty absorbing information, managing her time and finishing assignments.

A prejudice against ADHD persists to this day - even though it is a genetic, neuro-developmental problem that shows up in brain scans, Dr. Levy said. Afflicted people have a lack of dopamine and noradrenalin receptors in the area of their brain that is in charge of deciding how they attach and detach their attention. "It was thought that you 'grow' out of it. But it doesn't go away and can even worsen in menopause," he said.

The link between ADHD and obesity is so crucial, according to Dr. Fleming and Dr. Levy, that their centre will open a special screening program for the disorder next month. "Physicians should consider ADHD as a key contributing cause of obesity and the inability to lose weight," Dr. Fleming said.
Today, Ms. Gilmore shops for groceries and cooks healthy meals for her family. She gardens, climbs stairs, and fits into restaurant booths and chairs. "I've even had people flirt with me," she said, laughing.

When her son's weight climbed dramatically a few years ago, she took him straight to the doctor. "Turns out he also has ADHD," she said.

Unlike his mother, he won't have to wait until he is an adult to be treated.


GastricGirl said...

Oh wow, thanks so much for sharing. I was diagnosed with ADHD several years ago (pre-op), but never did anything about it.. Maybe I really should, as I'm a nervous/stress eater.

Wendy Limbertie said...

glad it may be of some help.. I 've never been tested.. but who knows??.. I could be too! I am a chronic nail biter! and have other disorders. including eating of course.. also I like having clocks in every room in my house, I always need to know exactly what time it is! .. I hate hate hate being late!

jurplesman said...

For a connection between obesity and psychiatric disorder including ADHD see:

Eating Disorder: Anorexia and Bulimia at:

Jurriaan Plesman

Anonymous said...

Ohh. Interesting post you've got there. It never occurred to me that ADHD and obesity can be linked.

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