December 9, 2021

Nationwide population study finds association between ADHD and poor blood sugar management in type-1 childhood onset diabetes

It is difficult enough for a typical child to manage type-1 diabetes. For a child that also has ADHD, with learning difficulties, attention and memory problems, and limitations in social communication, it can be all the more challenging to carry out the complex tasks necessary to maintain glycemic control (control of blood sugar levels) and avoid diabetic harm.

To explore the additional risk associated with ADHD among children with type-1 diabetes, an international research team used the Swedish national registers to conduct a nationwide population study. Sweden has a single-payer national health insurance system, and assigns unique personal identification numbers to all residents, making it easy to cross-reference through various population and health registers.

The team used the Swedish Diabetes Register to identify all individuals born in Sweden from 1973 onwards with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes diagnosed before age 18. They then restricted the cohort to those who had no diabetic complications at diagnosis and whose HbA1c values had been recorded within 5 years of diagnosis.

Also known as the glycated hemoglobin test, HbA1c is an indicator of the average blood sugar (glucose) level over the past three months. When glucose builds up in the blood, it binds to the hemoglobin in red blood cells. The HbA1ctest measures bound glucose. Since red blood cells live for about 3 months, the test shows the average blood glucose over that period.

The team also searched for records of diabetes-related kidney damage (nephropathy) and damage to the retina (retinopathy). Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults.

The nationwide cohort consisted of 11,326 Swedish youths diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, of whom 415 (3.7%) were also diagnosed with ADHD.

Poor glycemic control, defined as mean HbA1c greater than 8.5%, was found in 38% of those with ADHD, twice the 19% found in those without neurodevelopmental disorders. After adjusting for confounders(sex, age at diabetes diagnosis, year of birth and year of diabetes diagnosis, another psychiatric morbidity, parental highest education level, parental psychiatric morbidity, smoking status, mean BMI [body mass index], and mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure), those with ADHD were 2.3 times as likely to have poor glycemic control.

Patients with ADHD were also almost twice as likely to suffer kidney damage, after adjusting for sex, age at diabetes diagnosis, year of birth, year of diabetes diagnosis, another psychiatric morbidity, parental highest education level, parental psychiatric morbidity, mean HbA1c levels, mean BMI, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and smoking status.

After the same adjustments, patients with ADHD were found to be a third (33%) more likely to suffer retinal damage.

The team concluded, "childhood-onset type 1 diabetes patients with neurodevelopmental disorders, especially those with ADHD or intellectual disability, are more prone to poor glycemic control and a higher risk of chronic diabetic complications compared with those without neurodevelopmental disorders.

Further longitudinal studies with a more comprehensive evaluation of diabetes management and molecular data are needed to provide insight into potential mediators in the association between comorbid neurodevelopmental disorder and diabetes complications in type 1 diabetes."

Shengxin Liu, Ralf Kuja-Halkola, Henrik Larsson, PaulLichtenstein, Jonas F. Ludvigsson, Ann-Marie Svensson, Soffia Gudbjörnsdottir, Magnus Tideman, Eva Serlachius, and Agnieszka Butwicka, "NeurodevelopmentalDisorders, Glycemic Control, and Diabetic Complications in Type 1 Diabetes: a Nationwide Cohort Study," The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology &Metabolism(2021), Vol. 106, No. 11, e4459-e4470, published online,

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News Tuesday: Fidgeting and ADHD

A recent study delved into the connection between fidgeting and cognitive performance in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Recognizing that hyperactivity often manifests as fidgeting, the researchers sought to understand its role in attention and performance during cognitively demanding tasks. They designed a framework to quantify meaningful fidgeting variables using actigraphy devices.

(Note: Actigraphy is a non-invasive method of monitoring human rest/activity cycles. It involves the use of a small, wearable device called an actigraph or actimetry sensor, typically worn on the wrist, similar to a watch. The actigraph records movement data over extended periods, often days to weeks, to track sleep patterns, activity levels, and circadian rhythms. In this study, actigraphy devices were used to measure fidgeting by recording the participants' movements continuously during the cognitive task. This data provided objective, quantitative measures of fidgeting, allowing the researchers to analyze its relationship with attention and task performance.)

The study involved 70 adult participants aged 18-50, all diagnosed with ADHD. Participants underwent a thorough screening process, including clinical interviews and ADHD symptom ratings. The analysis revealed that fidgeting increased during correct trials, particularly in participants with consistent reaction times, suggesting that fidgeting helps sustain attention. Interestingly, fidgeting patterns varied between early and later trials, further highlighting its role in maintaining focus over time.

Additionally, a correlation analysis validated the relevance of the newly defined fidget variables with ADHD symptom severity. This finding suggests that fidgeting may act as a compensatory mechanism for individuals with ADHD, aiding in their ability to maintain attention during tasks requiring cognitive control.

This study provides valuable insights into the role of fidgeting in adults with ADHD, suggesting that it may help sustain attention during challenging cognitive tasks. By introducing and validating new fidget variables, the researchers hope to standardize future quantitative research in this area. Understanding the compensatory role of fidgeting can lead to better management strategies for ADHD, emphasizing the potential benefits of movement for maintaining focus.

July 16, 2024

Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

NEWS TUESDAY: Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

A recent study investigated the presence of autistic-like symptoms in children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Given the overlapping social difficulties in both ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), distinguishing between the two disorders can be challenging. This study aims to pinpoint specific patterns of autistic symptoms in children with ADHD, comparing them to those with ASD using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd edition (ADOS-2).

The research involved 43 school-age children divided into two groups:

  • ADHD Group (25 children): Initially referred for ASD symptoms but later diagnosed with ADHD.
  • ASD Group (18 children): Children diagnosed with ASD.

Researchers used ADOS-2 to evaluate differences in communication deficits, social interaction challenges, and repetitive behaviors between the two groups. The study also compared IQ, age, ADOS-2 domain scores, and externalizing/internalizing problems.

Key Findings:

  • Significant differences were found between the ADHD and ASD groups in ADOS-2 domain scores, including Social Affect, Restricted and Repetitive Behavior, and Total Score.
  • On an individual item level, children with ADHD displayed similar atypical behaviors as those with ASD in social-communication areas such as "Pointing" and "Gestures".
  • Both groups showed comparable frequencies in behaviors like "Stereotyped/idiosyncratic words or phrases", "Mannerisms", and "Repetitive interests and behaviors".

The study highlights the importance of identifying transdiagnostic domains that overlap between ADHD and ASD. The transdiagnostic domain refers to a set of symptoms or behaviors that are common across multiple diagnostic categories rather than being specific to just one. Identifying these domains in mental health practice and in psychological research is crucial to understanding, properly diagnosing, and treating conditions with overlapping features. This understanding could pave the way for tailored treatments addressing the specific needs of children with ADHD, particularly those exhibiting autistic-like symptoms.

July 9, 2024

Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

NEW STUDY: Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults is commonly treated with stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamines. However, not all patients respond well to these stimulants or tolerate them effectively. For such cases, non-stimulant medications provide an alternative treatment approach.

Recent research by Brancati et al. reviews the efficacy and safety of non-stimulant medications for adult ADHD. Atomoxetine, a well-studied non-stimulant, has shown significant effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms in adults. The review highlights the importance of considering dosage, treatment duration, safety, and the presence of psychiatric comorbidities when prescribing atomoxetine.

Additionally, certain antidepressants, including tricyclic compounds, bupropion, and viloxazine, which possess noradrenergic or dopaminergic properties, have demonstrated efficacy in managing adult ADHD. Antihypertensive medications, especially guanfacine, have also been found effective. Other medications like memantine, metadoxine, and mood stabilizers show promise, whereas treatments like galantamine, antipsychotics, and cannabinoids have not yielded positive results.

The expert opinion section of the review emphasizes that while clinical guidelines primarily recommend atomoxetine as a second-line treatment, several other non-stimulant options can be utilized to tailor treatments based on individual patient needs and comorbid conditions. Despite these advancements, the authors call for further research to develop and refine more personalized treatment strategies for adults with ADHD.

This review underscores the growing landscape of non-stimulant treatment options, offering hope for more personalized and effective management of ADHD in adults.

June 25, 2024