Obesity Causing Puberty to Start Earlier and Earlier in Girls

It shouldn't be a surprise but girls are entering puberty earlier and earlier these days, and experts put it down to the rising tide of obesity.

According to Michelle Healy at USA Today, "The start of puberty (determined by a specific stage of breast development) was at a median age of 9.7 years old in white, non-Hispanic girls, 4 months earlier than in a landmark 1997 study that first documented early puberty in U.S. girls."

Healy notes that the new study followed 1,200 girls (enrolled at ages 6 to 8) over seven years, finding that "blacks continue to develop earlier than whites, reaching puberty at a median age of 8.8, vs. 9.3 years for Hispanics and 9.7 for Asians."

 "BMI supplants race as the No. 1 factor" in the new analysis, Healy quotes lead author Frank Biro, director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Though some minorities are reaching puberty earlier, the number one salient fact in all races is that girls are chubby, and getting chubbier, and that makes the hormones kick in.

Girls with higher BMIs in all race and ethnic groups were progressively more likely to have started puberty. As a chubby preteen myself, I entered puberty before my skinnier friends.  Everyone, of course, catches up eventually but those of us whose hormones went to work early are more at risk for breast cancer because of the increase of estrogen each month, for a longer period of time.

The more estrogen a body produces, and the longer it goes on, the more your body becomes a basket for this hormone build-up.  With some women, it's not a problem, especially those who go on to have more than one pregnancy, because for nine months, your body stops storing this hormone.

But for women who entered puberty early, and never went on to have children, the risk for breast cancer is greatest.  I don't know how we can stop this, because I believe the artificial hormones in the food we eat and the liquids we drink are also at fault.  Experts aren't entirely convinced that obesity is what's driving this new tendency towards earlier puberty but it seems more and more to blame for many of the ills that befall us.


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