Study Suggests Stress and Obesity May Be Among Factors Causing Early Puberty In Girls

A combination of factors including stress, unhealthy lifestyle (obesity), and unstable family environment may be causing girls to reach puberty earlier, according to researchers from the UK whose study was discussed in (2/7/06).

Presently, girls in the UK are reaching puberty significantly earlier than both their mothers (1.5 years sooner) and their grandmothers (2 years sooner). On average, onset of puberty in the UK now begins when a girl is ten years and three months old and the trend is still progressing.The team also found that a significant number of girls (15%) in the UK are reaching puberty before they turn eight years old.

Girls in the UK are now heavier than ever before and that means they are carrying more fat. Since fat tissue produces leptin, the increase in fat and the corresponding increase in leptin may all be related to the early onset of puberty.

The researchers found that girls today are less physically active and eat unhealthy foods like candy and junk food than their mothers or grandmothers did. At the same time, they eat much less fruit and vegetables.

According to the team, this combination of lack of physical activity and poor diet is creating a population of overweight girls.
The researchers also found that stress in the home increased the odds that a girl would experience early puberty. Girls who live with a stepfather, instead of their biological fathers, for example, are more were more likely to enter puberty.

But while the girls’ bodies matured early, researchers, their brains did not. The girls, therefore, were less able to control impulses. Some believe this may be one of the reasons behind recent rise in early teenage pregnancies in the UK. (Source: Medical News Today 2/7/06).

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