A new study proves a connection exists between early puberty in girls and obesity. As if we needed another reason to be concerned about the childhood obesity epidemic.
The results of the study aren’t entirely surprising, as it has been shown that obesity can alter the levels of reproductive hormones. This, in turn, can cause puberty to start sooner. The most recent study looked specifically at breast development as the marker of puberty, and studied girls ages 6-8 over the course of seven years.
Researchers with the study found that girls who had a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) may start developing sooner than their thinner peers. In some cases it was up to a full year sooner, than and as early as second grade. It was also found that black girls in particular are maturing sooner. The number of first-grade girls with developing breasts has tripled in the last 15 years.
While a high BMI cannot be pinpointed as the only cause of earlier puberty, environmental factors may play a part as well, it is certainly one of the most disturbing. Girls have been reaching puberty at younger ages for some time, which has led to creation of products like child-sized sanitary pads and deodorants aimed at children still in elementary school.
Girls who mature sooner than their peers due to factors like BMI face many health risks as they age. Early puberty has been linked to a variety of health concerns and chronic health problems like diabetes and heart disease. These are also health problems that obese individuals face. Mental health issues may develop like problems with self-esteem and depression.
Though only breast development was researched in this study, the people behind it hope to look at other markers of puberty in relation to BMI soon. Until they do, it will be hard to say conclusively that BMI is a direct influence on the onset of puberty. However, parents may want to keep a watchful eye on their young children and be on the lookout for signs of obesity and early puberty.
With the scary thought of multiple health concerns floating around in their heads, it may be easy for parents to want to buckle down on their child’s weight. However, it’s important not to be too adamant about having kids lose weight. Too much emphasis on weight loss at a young age could spur disordered eating. Instead, focus on eating foods that are nutritious and make sure kids spend some part of each day being active.