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Why are Children Starting Puberty Earlier?

Early onset of puberty is considered a risk factor for a number of diseases in adulthood, including hormone-related cancers, a shorter lifespan, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

The conventional thinking has been that the age of puberty has been getting earlier and earlier because our children have been getting fatter and fatter. However, European kids are also getting heavier, yet there has not been a steady decline in puberty onset. So it may be less about how much kids are eating and more about what they’re eating.

The most consistent link between diet and premature puberty has been found to be animal protein consumption. Every gram of daily animal protein intake—that’s just like the weight of a paperclip—has been associated with a 17% increase in the risk of girls starting their periods earlier than age 12.

Why this link between animal protein and premature puberty? We know meat increases the level of IGF-1 and that alone is associated with early onset puberty. If you’re not familiar with IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), I have a series of videos about the growth hormone (though mostly in relation to cancer risk). See, for example, The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle and Cancer-Proofing Mutation.

The early onset of puberty in girls associated with animal protein consumption may also be due to endocrine disrupting chemical pollutants in the meat supply. Watch the above video for the full story.

For more videos on premature puberty see:

I talk more about endocrine disrupting chemicals in particular in:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you subscribe to my videos here and watch my full 2012 year-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: kodomut / Flickr

Related:
Estrogens in Cooked Meat
Does Skim Milk Cause Acne?
The Effects of Cow’s Milk on Babies

Read more: Health, Children, Eating for Health, Gynecology, Teens, Videos, , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

104 comments

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12:55AM PDT on Sep 13, 2013

Thank you for pointing out the connection between animal protein and early puberty. As a vegan i try not to be too preachy about it because it tends to give us vegans a bad rep for being pushy., Yet i can't help but notice the physical differences in children who have a large animal based diet and thoee who get their protein from pants , kids who eat an animal based diet just look unhealthy ,overweight, get acne sooner, have antibiotic resistance,and medical research says they have hormone inbalances . sorry for the rant.

7:28AM PDT on Jun 27, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

5:54AM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

Before the onset of factory farmed chemicals in foods...people ate meat with no early puberty...organic is healthy be it meat or veggies and fruit, legumes. Refined foods with a lot of additives don't help either.

10:07PM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

I didn't like getting breasts at a young age (training bra or A cup by first grade) since you really do not need them until a certain age. I was a B cup by middle school and a C cup by high school.

9:16PM PDT on Apr 2, 2013

Chemicals, chemicals, everywhere doing all manner of evil.

8:54PM PDT on Apr 2, 2013

It is quite common because of the growth hormones found in animals,and they are killed for their meat. Then the milk is not that pure anymore, since most milk production are drug induced!
And all the burgers and sugar loaded soda drinks that many parents in the world are spoiling their kids at MacDonalds all over the world!

8:32PM PDT on Apr 2, 2013

Very enlightening. Thanks.

7:52PM PDT on Apr 2, 2013

Thanks.

6:37PM PDT on Apr 2, 2013

scary isnt it think what it is doing to us olde people after years of build up CANCER?

5:30PM PDT on Apr 2, 2013

Thank you for info.

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