January 16, 2024

South Korean Nationwide Population Study Finds Dose-Response Association Between Breastfeeding and Reduced Odds of ADHD

Infants begin to transition from breast or formula milk to solid food at about six months of age, as they gradually develop interest in food and the ability to chew.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first six months. The European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition recommends initiation of supplementary food around that time. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set a 2025 goal of getting most mothers worldwide to breastfeed exclusively through the first six months of infancy.

Noting that “inconsistent findings have been reported in previous national survey-based studies,” a South Korean study team conducted a nationwide population study to explore the relationship between breastfeeding and subsequent rates of ADHD.

South Korea has a mandatory single-payer national health insurance system – the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) – that covers virtually the entire population. Detailed and consistent NHIS records facilitate nationwide population studies. 

One NHIS program is the National Health Screening Program for Infants and Children (NHSPIC), which includes periodic examinations by trained pediatricians up to six years of age.

Using these national records, the team identified a cohort of over 1.1 million infants. These same records show that a little over a third (36%) received nothing but formula milk feeding during their first six months. About a fifth (21%) received a mix of formula and breast feeding. Almost a half (43%) were exclusively breastfed.

ADHD diagnoses were made by physicians during hospital visits.

The team adjusted for a series of confounders that were found to influence outcomes: sex, year of examination, residence, socioeconomic status, preterm birth, birth weight, and body measurements (weight, microcephaly) at examination (4–6 months of age).

With these adjustments, partial breastfeeding was associated with a small but significant (9%) reduction in the odds of infants later being diagnosed with ADHD, relative to infants receiving only formula milk feeding.

Exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a much larger 23% reduction in the odds of infants later being diagnosed with ADHD, relative to exclusive formula feeding.

What’s especially noteworthy is the dose-response pattern that suggests that breastfeeding may have a protective effect. 

A separate analysis comparing infants who began transitioning to supplementary solid food before versus after six months found absolutely no difference in the odds of subsequently being diagnosed with ADHD.

A similar pattern emerged for autism spectrum disorder on all counts, again reflecting a dose-response pattern, pointing to what may be a broader beneficial effect of breastfeeding for healthy neurologic development.

The team concluded, “The risk of ADHD and ASD [autism spectrum disorder] considerably decreased with breastfeeding, and this tendency was more prominent in children who received EBF [exclusive breastfeeding] than in those who received PBF [partial breastfeeding]. Our study strengthens and supports the idea that breastfeeding is beneficial in preventing NDDs [neurodevelopmental disorders] in children. We suggest that breastfeeding be encouraged and recommended to promote good neurodevelopmental outcomes.”

Jong Ho Cha, Yongil Cho, Jin-Hwa Moon, Juncheol Lee, Jae Yoon Na, and Yong Joo Kim, “Feeding practice during infancy is associated with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder: a population-based study in South Korea,” European Journal of Pediatrics (2023), https://doi.org/10.1007/s00431-023-05022-z.

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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