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Patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be at higher risk of being overweight or obese. In addition, ADHD has been associated with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, which may contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is one of the most common cardiovascular risk factors associated with high morbidity and mortality. Research has shown that metabolic syndrome occurs at a 58% higher rate in patients with a psychiatric disorder than in those without a psychiatric disorder. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic psychiatric disorder that may be linked to metabolic syndrome. Current data suggests that ADHD is linked to insulin resistance, which can play an important role in the development of metabolic syndrome.

One recent cross-sectional study published in the Frontiers in Psychiatry investigated the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in a sample of adult outpatients with ADHD. The study assessed data from 158 patients at an outpatient center at the San Luigi Gonzaga University Hospital in Italy between January 2019 and January 2020. ADHD was diagnosed through a comprehensive assessment, and metabolic syndrome was diagnosed using the ATP III criteria.

Out of 158 patients diagnosed with ADHD, 17 patients (10.8%) were found to have metabolic syndrome. These patients exhibited at least three out of five criteria involving waist circumference, hypertension, triglycerides, HDL, and hyperglycemia. In patients with ADHD, blood triglyceride level was the primary predictor for metabolic syndrome. The second and third main predictors were diastolic blood pressure and waist circumference. However, the study noted several limitations, including the fact that the prevalence of metabolic syndrome can be affected by other factors, such as age.

The researchers of the study recommend clinicians properly screen for metabolic syndrome in their patients with ADHD. Clinicians should assess for metabolic syndrome at follow-up visits and evaluate blood triglyceride levels.

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di Girolamo, G., Bracco, I. F., Portigliatti Pomeri, A., Puglisi, S., & Oliva, F. (2022). Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance in a Sample of Adult ADHD Outpatients. Front Psychiatry, 13, 891479. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.891479