Obesity linked to early puberty in girls
Obesity may be linked to premature puberty in girls in the U.S., according to a new study.
The research presents new implications of childhood obesity, which affects about 17 percent of children and teens in the U.S.
In the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers followed more than 1,200 girls between ages 6 and 8 in San Francisco, Cincinnati and New York. Researchers documented both the girls’ body mass index (BMI) and their maturation process from 2004 to 2011.
The researchers found that girls with BMIs below the 50th percentile started showing signs of puberty, such as developing breasts, at about age 10, while girls with BMIs in the 85th and 95th percentiles showed the same signs at about age 8.5.
The scientists noted that the findings do not mean that obesity is a cause of early puberty; rather, premature puberty is more likely caused by several factors—such as inactivity and chemicals in food and water—that may be affecting the hormones that trigger sexual maturation. Another possibility for the link between obesity and early puberty is that extra weight may trick the body into believing it has enough energy and other resources to begin puberty at an early age.
The researchers said that parents of young children need to take extra precautions to encourage healthy weights and prevent obesity, as it may lead to health problems for young girls, along with lower self-esteem, depression and early sexual activity.