Food and Behaviour Research

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Attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms and dietary habits in adulthood: A large population‐based twin study in Sweden

Li L, Taylor M, Bälter K, Kuja‐Halkola R, Chen Q, Hegvik T, Tate A, Chang Z, Arias‐Vásquez A, Hartman C, Larsson H (2020) American Journal of Medical Genetics 07 October 2020 DOI:10.1002/ajmg.b.32825 

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Associations between adult attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and dietary habits have not been well established and the underlying mechanisms remain unclear.

We explored these associations using a Swedish population‐based twin study with 17,999 individuals aged 20–47 years. We estimated correlations between inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity with dietary habits and fitted twin models to determine the genetic and environmental contributions.

Dietary habits were defined as (a) consumption of food groups, (b) consumption of food items rich in particular macronutrients, and (c) healthy and unhealthy dietary patterns.

At the phenotypic level, inattention was positively correlated with seafood, high‐fat, high‐sugar, high‐protein food consumptions, and unhealthy dietary pattern, with correlation coefficients ranging from 0.03 (95%CI: 0.01, 0.05) to 0.13 (95% CI: 0.11, 0.15).

Inattention was negatively correlated with fruits, vegetables consumptions and healthy dietary pattern, with correlation coefficients ranging from −0.06 (95%CI: −0.08, −0.04) to −0.07 (95%CI: −0.09, −0.05).

Hyperactivity/impulsivity and dietary habits showed similar but weaker patterns compared to inattention.

All associations remained stable across age, sex and socioeconomic status. Nonshared environmental effects contributed substantially to the correlations of inattention (56–60%) and hyperactivity/impulsivity (63–80%) with dietary habits.

The highest and lowest genetic correlations were between inattention and high‐sugar food (
rA = .16, 95% CI: 0.07, 0.25), and between hyperactivity/impulsivity and unhealthy dietary pattern (rA = .05, 95% CI: −0.05, 0.14), respectively.

We found phenotypic and etiological overlap between ADHD and dietary habits, although these associations were weak. Our findings contribute to a better understanding of common etiological pathways between ADHD symptoms and various dietary habits.