Is There a Link Between ADHD and Blood Sugar?
In recent years, numerous studies have been conducted to see if there is a link between ADHD and blood sugar, specifically in therms of diabetes. These studies have found that while there is no cause-and-effect relationship between the two (i.e., ADHD does not cause diabetes and vice versa), there is a correlation between them. Children with type 1 diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, and adolescents and adults with ADHD are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Understanding the relationship between ADHD and blood sugar can help patients manage their symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of ADHD and Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the body’s blood sugar levels are too high due to a lack of the hormone insulin. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder wherein the pancreas can’t produce insulin because the immune system attacks and destroys pancreas cells. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin. Genetics and lifestyle factors (such as inactivity, poor diet and obesity) are contributing factors to developing type 2 diabetes.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by an inability to focus or pay attention, poor memory, lack of organization and, in some cases, hyperactivity. Like diabetes, hormones play a role in ADHD, specifically neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine.
Despite the difference in their causality, the two conditions do share certain symptoms. Specifically:
- Anger and mood swings
- Feeling frustrated and overwhelmed
What is the Connection Between ADHD and Blood Sugar?
In children with type 1 diabetes, it is more common for ADHD to present without hyperactivity. Instead, they experience problems focusing, difficulties with short and long term memory, decreased executive function, and reduced information processing speed. It seems that the younger someone is when diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the more severe their ADHD symptoms.
Researchers believe this is because chronically high or low blood sugar, or swings between the two extremes, can have a negative effect on brain development. This can include physical changes to the brain itself, such as frontal lobe scarring or a decrease in grey matter. These changes in the brain appear to be linked to the development of ADHD. Further research into the relationship between ADHD and type 1 diabetes is needed to fully understand the impact of blood sugar fluctuations on the brain.
When it comes to type 2 diabetes, a Swedish study found that that adults with ADHD were twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes than those without ADHD. This makes sense given what we know about ADHD: the ADHD brain craves dopamine stimulation, which it gets through simple carbs and high-sugar foods. Poor executive function can also lead to poor food choices by forgetting to plan out meals and impulsive or scattered eating. In fact, eating disorders – such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating – are four times more common among people with ADHD and are a precursor to developing type 2 diabetes.
People with ADHD can also struggle to follow an exercise routine, and a sedentary lifestyle is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes. And women with ADHD are much more likely to have PCOS, a hormonal endocrine disorder that is closely associated with insulin resistance.
How are ADHD and Diabetes Treated?
Both ADHD and diabetes treatment plans involve:
- Dietary restrictions
- Regular exercise
Establishing a routine is critical to implementing and adhering to a treatment plan. ADHD makes it difficult to remember or follow a plan, and failure to check blood sugar levels or take medications can have serious health risks. Both ADHD and diabetes require daily management, but their symptoms can be controlled.
If you have or are at risk for developing diabetes and also have ADHD, Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM and the staff at Anchor Wellness Center are here to help. As a Board Certified physician in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra can develop a personalized treatment plan to control your ADHD and blood sugar. Call our offices at (832) 246-8437 to schedule your consultation today.