Friday, January 30th, 2015
Little is known about what causes ADHD, one of the most common childhood disorders, but scientists believe both genetics (though no gene has been found yet) and the environment are factors.
Now a new study from various universities has found evidence for an environmental cause. According to the study, a specific pesticide (called deltamethrin) that’s often used on home lawns, vegetable crops, gardens, and golf courses, may increase the risk of ADHD.
Researchers conducted experiments on mice, exposing them to the pesticide while they were in utero and then through lactation. Results revealed that the mice showed symptoms related to ADHD, including impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, and dysfunctional brain signals. And even when traces of the pesticide could no longer be detected as the mice reached adulthood, the ADHD-like behaviors still existed.
In particular, male mice showed more symptoms of ADHD than female mice, which correlates with studies on humans that boys are (four times) more likely than girls to be diagnosed with the disorder. The researchers also analyzed certain health data (including urine samples) from over 2,000 kids and teens — and discovered that kids were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD if they had a higher pesticide level in their urine.
Even though the pesticide is usually considered less toxic than others, there is now more concern about exposing any of it to kids and pregnant women — especially because prenatal exposure to pesticides has also been linked to autism.
Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea
Image: Farmer spraying pesticides via Shutterstock
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Friday, November 7th, 2014
Is air pollution a factor in causing ADHD? A new study published in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS ONE suggests there may be a link.
A news release states:
Prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH, a component of air pollution, raises the odds of behavior problems associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, at age 9, according to researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health.
Researchers followed more than 200 women and their children living in New York City. Moms had their placenta and umbilical cord blood tested for PAH levels after birth, and children had their urine tested at ages 3 or 5. The results revealed that PAH exposure during pregnancy lead to a much higher chance (five times higher) chance that a child would develop inattentive-type ADHD, one of three types of ADHD.
“The findings are concerning because attention problems are known to impact school performance, social relationships, and occupational performance,” the study’s lead author Frederica Perera said.
NBC News reports:
PAHs are generated when carbon-based things are burned — from steaks on the grill to coal or oil burned to generate electricity. In New York, “traffic and residential heating are major local sources. There is also some contribution from coal-burning sources in states upwind,” Perera’s team also noted.
It’s not clear yet from this research how exactly PAHs are potentially linked to ADHD, but the study suggests relations to “the disruption of the endocrine system, DNA damage, oxidative stress, and interference with placental growth factors resulting in decreased exchange of oxygen and nutrients.”
Eleven percent of kids ages 4 to 17 (that’s 6.4 million!) have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study from 2013. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, read up on what you need to know here.
Photo of factory smoke courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Monday, May 19th, 2014
Women who smoke during pregnancy may be putting their babies at greater risk of ADHD and other disorders in which impulse control is compromised. A new study may have identified the specific brain changes that are behind this risk. More from Reuters:
People whose mothers smoked during pregnancy had weaker responses in the regions of their brains known to be involved in inhibition control, compared to those whose mothers didn’t smoke, researchers found.
Inhibition control relates to how people keep their impulses in check and resist distractions in certain situations.
“What’s quite surprising is to find such a reliable effect of prenatal smoke exposure that occurred 25 years before,” Nathalie Holz said.
Holz is the study’s lead author from Mannheim/Heidelberg University in Germany.
She and her colleagues write in JAMA Psychiatry that about 22 percent of European women smoke and about half of them continue to smoke during pregnancy.
Smoking while pregnant has been tied to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, among kids. Children with the condition usually have trouble concentrating and controlling their impulses.
“Now we were interested in what the specific mechanisms are behind this association,” Holz said.
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Image: Pregnant woman smoking, via Shutterstock
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Friday, May 9th, 2014
A new study presented to the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) this week reports that 18 percent of Ivy League college students admit to misusing stimulant drugs like Adderall (an ADHD medication) at least once to help them power through a rigorous homework or test-preparation situation. The study further found that a third of those students who used the drugs said they didn’t consider their actions tantamount to “cheating.” More from Boston.com:
Researchers at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York surveyed 616 sophomores, juniors and seniors who were not known to have ADHD who attended an undisclosed Ivy League school. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said they took the medication to write an essay, 66 percent said they took it to study for a test, while 27 percent took the drugs before an exam, the study found.
Twenty-four percent of students at the college reported use of these drugs at least eight times, the study found. Those who were involved in extracurricular activities, sports, or are part of a fraternity or sorority were more likely to use stimulants.
“While many colleges address alcohol and illicit drug abuse in their health and wellness campaigns, most have not addressed prescription stimulant misuse for academic purposes,” Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York and lead author of the study said in a statement. “Because many students are misusing prescription stimulants for academic, not recreational purposes, colleges must develop specific programs to address this issue.”
An estimated 40 percent believed using the drugs to enhance their academic performance is unethical, while 33 percent of the students did not see a problem with it. A quarter of the students surveyed were undecided.
The study did not assess whether the students found the practice to be dangerous to their health. Common side effects of misusing stimulant drugs include headaches, dizziness, chest pains and panic attacks. A report released August 2013 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found emergency room visits for nonmedical use of stimulants among 18 to 34-year-olds tripled between 2005 and 2011.
Image: Stressed college student, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, February 27th, 2014
Mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may be more common in children born to fathers who are “middle aged,” or age 45 and older, according to new research conducted in Sweden. The New York Times has more:
In recent years, scientists have debated based on mixed evidence whether a father’s age is linked to his child’s vulnerability to individual disorders like autism and schizophrenia. Some studies have found strong associations, while others have found weak associations or none at all.
The new report, which looked at many mental disorders in Sweden, should inflame the debate, if not settle it, experts said. Men have a biological clock of sorts because of random mutations in sperm over time, the report suggests, and the risks associated with later fatherhood may be higher than previously thought. The findings were published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
“This is the best paper I’ve seen on this topic, and it suggests several lines of inquiry into mental illness,” said Dr. Patrick F. Sullivan, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina, who was not involved in the research. “But the last thing people should do is read this and say, ‘Oh no, I had a kid at 43, the kid’s doomed.’ The vast majority of kids born to older dads will be just fine.”
Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, a professor of psychiatry and human molecular genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, also urged caution in interpreting the results. “This is great work from a scientific perspective,” he said. “But it needs to be replicated, and biomedical science needs to get in gear and figure out what accounts for” the mixed findings of previous studies.
The strengths of the new report are size and rigor. The research team, led by Brian M. D’Onofrio of Indiana University, analyzed medical and public records of some 2.6 million people born in Sweden from 1973 to 2001. Like many European countries, Sweden has centralized medical care and keeps detailed records, so the scientists knew the father’s age for each birth and were able to track each child’s medical history over time, as well as that of siblings and other relatives. Among other things, the analysis compared the mental health of siblings born to the same father and found a clear pattern of increased risk with increasing paternal age.
Compared with the children of young fathers, aged 20 to 24, those born to men age 45 and older had about twice the risk of developing psychosis, the signature symptom of schizophrenia; more than three times the likelihood of receiving a diagnosis of autism; and about 13 times the chance of having a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. Children born to older fathers also tended to struggle more with academics and substance abuse.
The researchers controlled for every factor they could think of, including parents’ education and income. Older couples tend to be more stable and have more income — both protective factors that help to temper mental problems — and this was the case in the study. But much of the risk associated with paternal age remained.
“We spent months trying to make the findings go away, looking at the mother’s age, at psychiatric history, doing sub-analyses,” Dr. D’Onofrio said. “They wouldn’t go away.”
Use our growth chart for help calculating your child’s height and weight percentiles.
Image: Older dad, via Shutterstock
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