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Eating meat/dairy products linked to early puberty

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By Jimmy Downs

Saturday Oct 20, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Parents need to worry about this: early puberty in their children, which can not only negatively affect their social life, but also their health.  Among other things, early puberty is associated with high risk of hormone-related cancers like prostate cancer and breast cancer.

A new study in Journal of Nutrition suggests that eating too much meat and dairy product or in other words, high animal protein promotes early puberty while eating vegetable protein may promote late puberty.

The early puberty is more common in the developed countries than developing countries.  People in developed countries eat more meat and dairy products whereas people in developing countries eat more vegetable protein.

A. L. Günther at Department of Nutritional, Food and Consumer Sciences, Fulda University of Applied Sciences in Fulda, Germany and colleagues conducted the current study and found a higher total and animal protein intake at the age of 5 to 6 years was associated with an earlier pubertal growth spurt.

Specifically, those in the highest tertile of animal protein intake at the age of 5 to 6 years experienced the onset of the puberty growth spurt 0.6 years earlier, compared to those whose animal protein intake was in the lowest tertile. 

This observation was derived from an analysis that already considered the possible influence from other factors including gender, total energy intake, breast-feeding period, birth year, and paternal university degree. 

The study was based on data from the longitudinal Dortmund Nutritional and Anthropometric Longitudinally Designed Study in which individuals provided 3-day weighed dietary records at 12 months, 18 to 24 months, 3 to 4 years and 5 to 6 years. A total of 112 participants provided sufficient anthropometric measurements between age 6 and 13 years to allow an estimation of the pubertal growth spurt.
In addition to the association between intake of animal protein and the age at the take-off of the puberty growth spurt, the researchers also found similar associations for the peak height velocity and the timing of menarche/voice break.

On the other hand, a higher vegetable protein intake at 3 to 4 and 5 to 6 years was found correlated with late puberty growth spurt, peak height velocity and timing of menarche/voice break.

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

Parents who do not want their boys and girls to enter adulthood too soon may encourage them to eat more vegetable protein, which is found largely in legumes and lower intake of meat and dairy products.

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