Puberty is a milestone in a boy’s or girl’s life that occurs when he or she becomes sexually mature. Boys usually reach this milestone between the ages of 12 and 16, while girls attain it a little earlier between 10 and 14 years old. The major landmarks of puberty for boys include pubic hair, genital growth, and the first ejaculation. For girls, it is comprised of pubic hair, breast development, and the onset of menstruation.
As children already grow quicker than their parents want them to, recent research is revealing American girls are entering puberty earlier than ever before. The average age for breast development is now 9 years old. However, some rare cases are showing girls as young as four years old are precociously entering puberty.
Why are young girls entering puberty at such an early age?
This precocious puberty is triggered by a premature hormone release. Studies indicate that endocrine disrupting chemicals are the contributing factor.
Additionally, experts say that starting puberty earlier can be metabolically dangerous. For girls, starting menstruation early “is a risk factor for depression during adolescence and breast cancer during adulthood.”
Caffeine and aspartame blamed for early onset puberty in girls
According to a recent longitudinal study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a high consumption of caffeinated soft drinks are the culprit to early onset puberty in girls.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Healthy Study followed 1,988 American girls for 10 years. Approximately half were Caucasian, and the other half were African American. Researchers examined prospective associations between caffeinated and non-caffeinated sugar, as well as artificially sweetened sodas, and early menstruation. They also examined the link between early onset puberty and intakes of caffeine, sucrose, fructose, and aspartame.
The findings of the research determined that consumption of caffeinated and artificially sweetened drinks with aspartame were positively associated with the risk of early puberty in both races of girls.
Sugar-sweetened beverages associated with early menstruation
Published in the journal of Human Reproduction, another study found that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was linked to early menstruation in girls.
The Growing up Today Study, a prospective cohort study analyzed 5,583 girls (also pre-menarche at baseline) from the ages of 9 and 14 in the United States between 1996 and 2001. Consumption of non-carbonated fruit drinks, sugar-sweetened soda, and iced tea were also reported.
Girls who consumed more sugar-sweetened beverages were found to begin early menstruation. Girls who reported consuming greater than 1.5 servings per day were 24 percent more likely to begin puberty at an earlier age when compared to girls who drank less than two sugar-sweetened beverages per week.
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