Weight gain, diabetes during pregnancy associated with increased ADHD risk in offspring

Women with pregestational obesity and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) are at high risk of having children diagnosed with ADHD, according to a recent study.

A cohort study was conducted evaluating single births over 22 weeks gestation by women with GDM between 1991 and 2008. Excessive weight gain in the participants was defined as a weight gain during pregnancy above the recommendations of the National Academy of Medicine. The study enrolled 1036 children with a median follow-up of 17.7 years.

Of the total, 135 children (13%) were diagnosed with ADHD. The researchers found that maternal obesity was associated with ADHD (HR 1.66; 95% CI, 1.07 – 2.60]), but not with overweight or excessive maternal weight gain. In addition, ADHD rates according to maternal pregestational weight were 7.1% (n = 1 of 14) for underweight, 11.4% (n = 62 of 5460 for normal weight, 14.2% (n = 40 of 281) for overweight and 16.4% (n = 32 of 195) for obesity.

Furthermore, maternal obesity with excessive weight gain was associated with the highest risk of a child developing ADHD versus a normal-weight woman without excessive weight gain (HR 2.13; 95% CI, 1.14 – 4.01]). Pregestational obesity without excessive weight gain was not associated with a child diagnosed with ADHD (HR 1.36; 95% CI 0.78 – 2.36).

“During GDM pregnancies, pregestational obesity was associated with a higher risk of ADHD in the offspring. Nevertheless, when weight gain during pregnancy was taken into account, only the joint association of obesity and EWG remained significant,” the researchers concluded.

—Jessica Ganga


Perea V, Simo-Servat A, Quiros C, et al. Role of excessive weight gain during pregnancy in ADHD risk in offspring of women with gestational diabetes. J Clin Endocr. Published online September 8, 2022. doi:10.1210 / clinem / dgac483

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