If you’ve ever made the observation that young girls appear to be maturing earlier than in the past you’re probably not just imagining things. Researchers have been reporting that girls are entering puberty now earlier than ever before and a recent link to childhood obesity may be the number one reason.
NBC News reports about a new study published in the journal Pediatrics that suggests childhood obesity is a big factor for bringing on early puberty in girls.
Researchers who followed 1,200 girls ages 6 to 8 found body mass index to be the biggest predictor of when a girl will hit puberty. The higher the BMI the greater chance she will hit puberty, even developing breasts as early as age 8.5. Studies have found that girls who hit puberty early are more likely to be depressed and sexually active at a younger age.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why weight plays such an important role in early puberty, but they believe it may be because the body’s extra weight signals the brain that there is enough energy to start the process of puberty. Researchers want to be sure parents know that weight is not the only contributor to early puberty. Factors like our diets, chemicals in the food and water we drink and less active lifestyles plays a part in an overall early start to puberty. Professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Marcia Herman-Giddens explains, “Each individual girl is exposed to multiple factors in today's environment, many not present decades ago, that may potentially influence her pubertal onset.”
And for parents who think putting their child on a diet to delay early puberty, Dr. Frank Biro, a pediatrics professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center warns that this is not the answer. He says, “Parents of these early maturing kids have to be more watchful. But I don’t want to have a nation of patients with eating disorders. We need to figure out what are healthy weights for our kids. We want them to be comfortable with their bodies.”
What do you think of the new study that links childhood obesity with the onset of early puberty?