U.S. girls are hitting puberty earlier, and childhood obesity may be a culprit. The average age of puberty has dropped several months since the 1990s to just under nine years old for black girls and nine and a half for white girls, according to a new study published in Pediatrics. Researchers also found that girls who weighed more developed breasts earlier.
In their research it was noted that black girls start to develop breasts just before their 9th birthdays, and on the average white girls were about 9 1/2 years old before they start to develop.
The long-term study involved more than 1,200 girls in and around San Francisco, Cincinnati and New York City. The girls were enrolled in the study between ages 6 and 8 and were tracked with annual or semi-annual visits.
Girls who weighed more tended to start developing at younger ages. Rising obesity rates seem to be a “prime driver” behind breast development starting earlier, Dr. Frank Biro and his colleagues wrote Monday in Pediatrics.
Researchers also made a correlation between early onset of puberty and development with sex or using drugs and alcohol at younger ages and are more likely to become depressed or develop low self-esteem.
“You’ve got a 10-year-old who looks like a 14-year-old. We interact with kids based on the way that they look,” Biro said. “Kids interact with each other that way also.”
Not only can emotional issues be involved with early puberty, but other health issues. The girls hitting puberty earlier could be at higher risk of breast and other cancers because their bodies spend more years making and being exposed to estrogen.
One has to wonder if the researchers took in account the amount of genetically modified foods children are eating nowadays. The amount of hormones in food probably has a lot to do with the development of a child’s body. Also, socioeconomics play a huge part in the diets of children. Not too many families can afford to buy “organic”, when they’re sometimes feeding a large family.
So what’s the solution?
Keeping your kids active is probably key. As a kid that was underdeveloped in every area, but height, once I stopped playing sports after high school is when I finally started to develop in other ways. As a parent, I realize that I have to keep track of what my child eats and make sure he stays active. Do I always buy organic? No, but I do make a conscious effort to provide a balance between a good diet and exercise.
Early onset of puberty and it’s connection to obesity isn’t something to take lightly. What we don’t want is a generation of women with health issues because of bad childhood habits, that could have been prevented.