Possible dietary causes of early puberty include hormones found in milk and meat products and chemicals with estrogen-like qualities in soy and other foods. Being overweight has also been linked with early puberty as body fat produces more estrogen. Additionally, there are hundreds of chemicals used in our day to day products as well as industrially of which we do not know the effects, including materials used in hospitals! Many of these can interfere with baby and young children's delicate hormone system.
This post especially goes out to the moms and dads (present and future). Take care of your bodies and your children's bodies with fresh, nutrient rich, organic (if possible) whole foods and natural home products. You are responsible for those bundles of joy. Cherish and nourish them.
Here are some articles about this growing issue:
Early puberty for girls is raising health concerns
Suspect chemicals include pesticides used in farms and lawns, flame retardants found in furniture and electronics, and bisphenol A, or BPA, an estrogen-like ingredient found in plastic bottles, the linings of metal food and beverage cans, Biro says. He notes that researchers are collecting blood and urine samples from girls and will be able to analyze their exposure to toxins.
Animal and human studies suggest certain chemicals may affect male sexual development.
The herbicide atrazine, for example, has been shown to chemically "castrate" some male frogs and turn others into females able to lay eggs, according to a March study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
And a 2008 study found that baby boys are more likely to have genital changes, such as undescended testicles and smaller penises, if they were exposed before birth to high levels of phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals found in medical tubing, vinyl and other products.
It also increases the odds that girls will develop low self-esteem, eating disorders and depression. Girls who hit puberty sooner are more likely to attempt suicide and to have earlier sexual activity. As adults, these women are at greater risk for breast and endometrial cancers, possibly because they have a longer lifetime exposure to estrogen.
Puberty Hits Girls As Young As 7
More girls are reaching puberty at a younger age, often as early as 7 or 8, according to a new study.Published today in Pediatrics, the study links the alarming trend to rising levels of obesity and environmental chemicals found in everyday items-- like water bottles and makeup-- that mimic estrogen.
Dr. Frank Biro, lead author of the study and director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, told the New York Times:
"It's certainly throwing up a warning flag... I think we need to think about the stuff we're exposing our bodies to and the bodies of our kids."
Obesity is cited as a major factor, because body fat produces estrogen, which in turn triggers breast development and menstruation.
But he also suggests the role of endocrine-disrupting chemicals like Bisphenol-A (BPA), which is used to make the plastics in water bottles and baby bottles. In January 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration raised concerns over the widespread use of BPA's in consumer products, but so far little has been done to regulate its usage.
The study measures puberty as the start of breast development, the most ostensible sign of puberty in girls. Biro's team took breast measurements of 1,239 girls aged 6 to 9 living in San Francisco Bay area, greater Cincinnati and East Harlem in New York. Each age group was made up of 30% each whites, blacks and Hispanics, and 5% Asians.
According to the study's abstract, at 7 years old, 10.4% of whites, 23.4% of blacks and 14.9% of Hispanic girls were developing breasts. At 8 years, the figures increased to 18.3%, 42.9% and 30.9%, respectively.
Interestingly, these proportions increased the most among whites when compared to 10 years ago, the study says. A Time magazine article questions exactly how young puberty can start -- and why this matters.
There are other far-reaching consequences of early puberty: increased risk of breast cancer (linked to an overexposure of estrogen), depression, youth violence.
The fact that the onset of puberty has not shifted earlier among African-American girls over the last decade, says Biro, may simply reflect the fact that they have reached the minimum biological
age at which sexual development can occur. "How young can you go? Maybe white populations have not arrived at that biologic minimum," he says.
But perhaps most alarming of all are the quieter emotional repercussions, as the Times article notes:
Socially and emotionally, life can be difficult for a girl who has a child's mind in a woman's body and is not ready to deal with sexual advances from men and boys, or cope with her own hormone-spiked emotions and sexual impulses.