Consistent links between capacity to delay gratification and ADHD, obesity

June 14, 2016

Two new studies led by researchers at McMaster University and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton have found that individuals diagnosed with ADHD or obesity are more likely to choose smaller immediate rewards over larger future rewards.

This reduced capacity to delay gratification in many individuals diagnosed with ADHD or may lead to new approaches for the clinical treatment of these conditions.

The studies, led by Drs. James MacKillop and Michael Amlung of the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research at McMaster University and St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, have been published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging and Psychological Medicine.

The findings from these new studies parallel a 2011 study conducted by the authors that found that the ability to delay gratification was reduced in individuals diagnosed with addictive disorders.

"In the context of addictions, there is an increasing appreciation that we need to improve treatment that we provide for patients who substantially devalue future rewards," said MacKillop. "These studies suggest that a simple assessment that measures this phenomenon may also help clinicians to better understand some of their patients that have been diagnosed with ADHD and obesity."

The studies were meta-analyses, or studies that combine the findings across many previous investigations to detect consistent or inconsistent patterns of findings. In the case of the ADHD study, the meta-analysis combined the findings from 21 previous studies including almost 4,000 participants. In the case of the obesity study, the meta-analysis combined the findings from almost 39 studies including over 10,000 participants.

Although the results of prior research appeared to be mixed, these new studies found a highly consistent reduction in capacity to delay gratification in relation to both clinical conditions.

"While not all individuals diagnosed with ADHD and obesity display this pattern of reduced capacity to delay gratification, the connection between this phenomenon and addictions as well as these clinical conditions is clear," said Amlung.

"In the context of obesity specifically, these findings may help inform clinical approaches to weight management that increase individuals' focus toward the longer-term rewards of weight loss."

A second important finding in both studies was that, although the methods varied considerably across the previous studies, reanalyzing the data based on different methods did not appreciably alter the overall findings.

"These studies suggest that, despite different experimental tasks, ages and study designs, immediate reward orientation is robustly elevated in both ADHD and obesity," said Dr. MacKillop.

Explore further: Research shows association among childhood ADHD, sex and obesity

Related Stories

Research shows association among childhood ADHD, sex and obesity

February 4, 2016
The incidence of childhood and adult obesity has increased significantly over the past three decades. New research shows that there is an association between obesity development during adulthood and childhood attention deficit ...

ADHD or just immature?

March 10, 2016
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is typically diagnosed in childhood and manifests as an inability to sustain attention and control activity levels and impulse control. Some reports have indicated a prevalence ...

ADHD may emerge after childhood for some people, according to new study

May 18, 2016
While it is well established that childhood ADHD may continue into adulthood, new research by King's College London suggests that for some people the disorder does not emerge until after childhood.

Drug treatment of hyperactivity in kids may have levelled off in UK

June 13, 2016
The tendency to treat childhood hyperactivity (ADHD) with drugs may have reached a plateau in the UK, following a steep rise in the number of prescriptions for these medicines over the past 20 years, reveals research published ...

First long-term study reveals link between childhood ADHD and obesity

May 20, 2013
A new study conducted by researchers at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center found men diagnosed as children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were twice as likely to be obese in a 33-year ...

Researchers uncover key scientific and statistical errors in obesity studies

March 30, 2016
A special statistical series in the journal Obesity identifies common scientific and statistical errors in obesity-relate studies, challenges assumptions about weight loss, and calls for increased application of control arms ...

Recommended for you

Eye movements reveal temporal expectation deficits in ADHD

September 12, 2017
A technique that measures tiny movements of the eyes may help scientists better understand and perhaps eventually improve assessment of ADHD, according to new research published in Psychological Science.

ADHD medication tied to lower risk for alcohol, drug abuse in teens and adults

July 13, 2017
The use of medication to treat attention deficient hyperactivity disorder is linked to significantly lower risk for substance use problems in adolescents and adults with ADHD, according to a study led by researchers at Indiana ...

Video game promotes better attention skills in some children with sensory processing dysfunction

April 6, 2017
A video game under development as a medical device boosts attention in some children with sensory processing dysfunction, or SPD, a condition that can make the sound of a vacuum, or contact with a clothing tag intolerable ...

Children with ADHD often live in chaotic households

March 9, 2017
Researchers often observe inadequate parenting, a negative emotional climate and household chaos in families of children with ADHD. A research group at Goethe University Frankfurt and the universities of Bremen, Heidelberg, ...

ADHD a 'brain disorder', not just bad behaviour: study

February 16, 2017
People with ADHD have slightly smaller brains than those without the condition, according to a study released Thursday which insisted it is a physical disorder and not just bad behaviour.

Could the 'Mediterranean' diet help prevent ADHD?

January 30, 2017
(HealthDay)—Kids who follow a Mediterranean diet—high in fruits, vegetables and "good" fats—may be less likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a small study suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.