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Studies explain why girls enter puberty as young as age 7

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Girls are more likely now than ever to enter puberty as young as 7, according to a new study released in the journal Pediatrics.

Dr. Frank M. Biro, director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and colleagues found 15 percent of Latina girls, more than 10 percent of white girls, and 25 percent of black girls were beginning puberty at age 7.

This is what the researchers found after they analyzed data from 1238 girls ages 6 to 8 who live in Cincinnati, East Harlem N.Y. and San Francisco.

The researchers also found by age 8, 10 percent of whites, 43 percent of Blacks and 31 percent of Latinas had entered puberty.

Early puberty can lead to medical problems like low self-esteem, eating disorders, depression, early sexual activity, later menopause, elevated risk of breast cancer.

Diet and environmental pollution are believed to cause early puberty in girls. Earlier this week Food Consumer reported studies that suggest that poor diet quality and high levels of hormone IGF-1 are associated with early puberty.

Below are summaries of some more studies that may give readers some idea about how girls enter puberty at such early ages.

Phthalate  exposure linked to early puberty in girls

One study led by Chou Y.Y and colleagues at the National Cheng King University Medical College and Hospital in Tainan, Taiwan suggests that exposure to phthalate may get girls in puberty early.

The study published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism was meant to determine the levels of phthalate ester metabolites in girls who had puberty earlier and their association with environmental factors like phthalate.

Phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors, are a group of chemicals used mainly as plasticizers to soften polyvinyl chloride. In the United States, Canada, and Europe, these chemicals are being phased out due to concerns over their safety.

For the study, Chou et al. compared metabolites in urine samples from 30 girls who exerpeinced early puberty including 30 girls with premature thelarche and 26 with central precocious puberty with that in urine samples from 33 normal controls.

The researchers found girls who entered puberty early had an average of 96.5 ng/ml of monomethyl phthalate compared to 26.4 ng/ml in girls who did not.

Some types of phthalate were associated with intake of seafood, meat, drink and the use of plastic cups and plastic handi-wrap.

Childhood obesity linked to early puberty in girls

Researchers at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital reported in the March 2007 issue of the journal Pediatrics that childhood obesity may be one reason for early puberty in girls.

Joyce Lee MD and colleagues found a higher body mass index score in girls as young as age 3 and large increases in BMI between age 3 and first grade were associated with early puberty defined as having breast development by age 9.

Another study in the December 2009 issue of PLoS One also found the emerging obesity epidemic was linked to the timing of puberty.

Aksglaede L and colleagues from University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark found the heavier girls were at age 7, the earlier they entered puberty.

The study was based on data from 156,835 children who were born between 1930 and 1969 and attended primary school in the Copenhagen municipality.

BMI was significantly inversely associated with the age for onset of pubertal growth spurt and peak height velocity, the stuyd found.

Obesity is blamed for everything, a health observer commented.  He said obesity is merely a symptom and the real risk is what causes obesity and these studies suggest that a girl's diet is important in determining her puberty status.

Animal protein pushes girls to enter puberty earlier

One recent study led by Günther A.L. and colleagues from Fulda University of Applied Sciences in Germany confirmed that diet plays a critical role in the timing of girls' puberty.

Günther reported in the March 2010 issue of Journal of Nutrition that those who had highest total intake of animal protein at age 5 to 6  experienced the pubertal growth spurt, peak height velocity (APHV), and menarche in girls about 0.6 years earlier than those with lowest intake.

On the other hand, high intakes of plant protein at 3 to 4 and 5 to 6 were related to later ATO, APHV, and menarche/voice break.

The researchers concluded that "These results suggest that animal and vegetable protein intake in mid-childhood might be differentially related to pubertal timing."

By David Liu

(Send your news to foodconsumer.org@gmail.com, Foodconsumer.org is part of the Infoplus.com ™ news and information network)

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (17 posted):

Chutlhu on 08/10/2010 16:08:53
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Its like Paulin says, It's God's way of saying we need to start marrying girls off younger.
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Katrina Groom on 08/10/2010 16:12:31
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I'm guessing the IGF-1 hormone is used in bovine and poultry. Did the last study mentioned look for a meat growth hormone correlation? With this and other studies I've been reading about, it looks like the evidence is mounting that meat growth hormones are disrupting human growth processes. When are we going to become outraged? I think it's time!!
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Brandon on 08/10/2010 16:15:30
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Exactly Katrina. The study showing consuming meat is a scare tactic to get people off meat and on a vegetarian diet. It's not the meat protein--it's the hormones that conventional farmers are injecting in the animals.
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on 08/10/2010 16:28:15
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Not to mention the injected and naturally occurring growth hormones in dairy. Inner city kids particularly are eating more dairy products from more concentrated forms than milk such as cheese and ice cream.
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Chris on 08/10/2010 16:33:25
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Sorry i have to disagree with Brandon. There is no link with hormones given to animals and early puberty. That was an initial theory because Americans were hitting puberty faster than those in Europe because they thought it was from the hormones in meat. But when the weight started to rise in europe so did early stages of puberty and they use non-hormonal meat. Plus dairy cows that are pregnant produce 30% more hormones in their milk than Cows who aren't pregnant. So hormones so far haven't shown to be the issue(yet or maybe not at all).
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lisa on 08/10/2010 16:39:19
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Pthalates are stored in fat cells, as are the hormones produced by endocrine disruption. Probably why obesity is correlated. Now the issue is, how do we limit the exposure children receive to these damaging chemicals? One way is, yes, outlaw the use of BGH in cattle. The excess of it is secreted in the milk at levels significantly higher than those naturally present. Use glass for food storage instead of plastics. Now I'd better go practice what I preach and throw out my handy storage containers. blah.
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Cardio Cocktail on 08/10/2010 16:46:18
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Couldn't have anything to do with rBST that is banned in some European countries? Of course the FDA has assured us it is safe for human consumption. I wonder how this fits in with epigenetics and how far the problem will go when all the info is put out....If that every happens.
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Eric on 08/10/2010 16:49:17
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BPA's. They mimic estrogin. Causing females to hit puberty faster and males to hit puberty slower.
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Tess on 08/10/2010 16:57:16
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Are you kidding me! Not only is it the hormones in the meat and dairy, but it's all the chemical additives they are adding to every processed food in this country. Get us sick, keep us sick for a long life on medication, keep the food industry and the pharmacuetical companies rich! Once again it's always for the almighty dollar!!
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Tara on 08/10/2010 17:02:45
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Americans need to wake up and realize that supposed regulating agencies like the FDA are a joke! Do your own homework on this. Just type in the word Aspartame and see what pops up! Stay away from Wikipedia and the lies they peddle!!! It is scary to be awake but far more deadly to stay asleep!!!
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Victor Lazlow on 08/10/2010 17:07:31
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I read a study that said BODY WEIGHT is the primary trigger for puberty. As in, puberty usually kicks in when girls reach X pounds. 100 years ago girls were reaching X pounds at around age 12, now it's 8.

Seems to make sense, the 8 year olds I see walking around with big boobs are all FAT.

So before decimating the dairy industry and plastic industry with lawsuits, please try to curb your kids from FEEDING THEIR PIE HOLES WITH FOOD 24 hours a day and lose some weight!
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heidi on 08/10/2010 17:10:47
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As you are throwing away your Tupperware Lisa, you might want to consider throwing out that microwave as well. Heating food in plastic via the microwave increases the amount of pthalates in you and your children's diet.
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James on 08/10/2010 17:11:14
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All of this was already discovered many many years ago. eating meat causes early puberty, causes higher risks of cancer, this was already proven, why are we just now rediscovering all of this? read "The China Study" it's already been well documented that we all need to be on a plant based diet because plant based proteins counteract the negative effects of proteins consumed from meat
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Anon on 08/10/2010 18:19:16
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Does this mean that children need to eat less meat? And more vegetables?
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angelic on 08/10/2010 19:47:08
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I have read that manual stimulation of sex hormones might be a contributing cause. Stimulating the breasts by touch at an early age, or sexual arousal, can stimulate hormones. Black children tend to become sexually active at an earlier age and have significantly higher numbers for very early onset of puberty in girls. Why was this information discluded from the study?
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Guest on 08/11/2010 01:20:45
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I don't understand why no one is bringing up SOY. I have poly cystic liver disease which makes me allergic to estrogen, including my own and the first thing that the world renowned Dr. from the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Vincent Torres told me to stay away from is SOY. It is an estrogen. It is in EVERYthing. I challenge any of you to avoid soy for 1 week. Good luck. It is the cheapest so it is in mayonaise, salad dressing, sauces, most processed foods, bread, cereal, all the baked goods including the ones from your corner baker, chewing gum, crackers, cookies, hand and face lotions (yes, it IS absorbed through skin)etc. etc. Take your reading glasses with you to the grocery store and be prepared to be shocked,...and we wonder why our girls are menstruating at age 7.
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dr nutrition on 08/19/2010 19:24:11
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The one thing the article leaves out is the fact that soy is an endocrine disruptor that affects the metabolism was known as early as the 50's that it causes weight gain which is why it is fed to animals to fatten them for market. Unfortunately that soy protein gets passed through the meat to humans. Add the fact that soy is used in nearly ALL processed foods and it will wreak havoc on your body. just 30mg of soy a day for 1 month will drop a person's metabolism in to under-active thus causing weight gain. I have seen numerous documented cases of little girls 3-5 years of age showing signs of onset of puberty, because their parents mistakenly were feeding them soy thinking it was beneficial. The sex changes were halted once the soy was removed from the diet. Soy should NEVER be fed to children.
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