University of Oulu

Karhunen, V., Bond, T.A., Zuber, V. et al. The link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and obesity-related traits: genetic and prenatal explanations. Transl Psychiatry 11, 455 (2021).

The link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and obesity-related traits : genetic and prenatal explanations

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Author: Karhunen, Ville1; Bond, Tom A.1,2,3,4; Zuber, Verena1;
Organizations: 1Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Imperial College London, London, UK
2The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
3MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
4Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
5Research Unit of Clinical Neuroscience, Psychiatry, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
6PEDEGO Research Unit, Child Psychiatry, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
7Clinic of Child Psychiatry, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
8Unit of Primary Care, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
9Center for Life Course Health Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
10Department of Life Sciences, College of Health and Life Sciences, Brunel University, London, UK
11Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London, London, UK
12Centre for Psychiatry and Mental Health, Wolfson Institute of Population Health, Queen Mary University London, London, UK
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-10-07


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often co-occurs with obesity, however, the potential causality between the traits remains unclear. We examined both genetic and prenatal evidence for causality using Mendelian Randomisation (MR) and polygenic risk scores (PRS). We conducted bi-directional MR on ADHD liability and six obesity-related traits using summary statistics from the largest available meta-analyses of genome-wide association studies. We also examined the shared genetic aetiology between ADHD symptoms (inattention and hyperactivity) and body mass index (BMI) by PRS association analysis using longitudinal data from Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986 (NFBC1986, n = 2984). Lastly, we examined the impact of the prenatal environment by association analysis of maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and offspring ADHD symptoms, adjusted for PRS of both traits, in NFBC1986 dataset. Through MR analyses, we found evidence for bidirectional causality between ADHD liability and obesity-related traits. PRS association analyses showed evidence for genetic overlap between ADHD symptoms and BMI. We found no evidence for a difference between inattention and hyperactivity symptoms, suggesting that neither symptom subtype is driving the association. We found evidence for association between maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and offspring ADHD symptoms after adjusting for both BMI and ADHD PRS (association p-value = 0.027 for inattention, p = 0.008 for hyperactivity). These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the co-occurrence between ADHD and obesity has both genetic and prenatal environmental origins.

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Series: Translational psychiatry
ISSN: 2158-3188
ISSN-E: 2158-3188
ISSN-L: 2158-3188
Volume: 11
Issue: 1
Article number: 455
DOI: 10.1038/s41398-021-01584-4
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
Funding: We thank all cohort members and researchers who have participated in the NFBC1986 study. We also wish to acknowledge the work of the NFBC project center. NFBC1986 is supported by EU QLG1-CT-2000-01643 (EUROBLCS) Grant no. E51560, NorFA Grant no. 731, 20056, 30167, USA/NIHH 2000 G DF682 Grant no. 50945, Academy of Finland EGEA-project (285547), H2020 Nutrition & Epigenome, The Joint Programming Initiative a Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life (JPI HDHL/EU-H2020, PREcisE, MR/S03658X/1), H2020 LifeCycle, no. 733206, iHEALTH-T2D, no. 643774, EUCAN Connect, no. 824989, and Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare 20111483. VK was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant (721567).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 285547
Detailed Information: 285547 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: Supplementary information:
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