Obesity Could Lead To Early Puberty In Girls
Study finds correlation; doctor says it isn't clear if obesity is a cause
Obesity appears to be sending girls into puberty earlier than ever according to new research.
A study of 1,200 girls published this week showed that in girls with a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the 85th percentile or higher, breast development began an average of a year-and-a-half earlier than in girls with BMI's below the 50th percentile. "In the study at least, the higher the Body Mass Index, the earlier the breast development is occurring," said Dr. Samar Rahhal, a pediatric endocrinologist at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital in Indianapolis.
Doctors are not sure why obesity might lead to early puberty or whether it is even a cause. But Rahhal says it is clear that something is going on. "The mean age for breast development, depending on race, is now between eight-and-a-half and nine-and-a-half years, roughly; so not necessarily earlier than normal but earlier than what has been described before," Rahhal said.
Rahhal says she has not noticed earlier puberty in boys, too, though there have been studies suggesting it might be taking place. The study released this week looked at girls exclusively.
Early puberty can possibly lead to short stature as adults for girls, as they may stop growing earlier than other kids. She also says there may be more harmful effects psychologically. "Girls who are going through puberty earlier may look different than their actual age, and thus may be treated differently than typical eight- or nine-year olds," said Rahhal.