Puberty is a difficult time in any kid’s life (not to mention their parents’). A shocking new report, however, has found that that time is coming much sooner than it used to.When I was growing up most girls got their first periods around the age of 12-13. Today, however, a large number of young girls are faced with maturing bodies long before their minds may be ready to deal with it.
And one of the main causes may be traced to the obesity epidemic in this country according to study researcher Dr. Frank Biro, a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Ohio, who found that while white and Asian girls are now entering puberty on average at 9.7 years old (approximately 3-4 months younger than the average age reported by scientists in a 1997 study), Hispanics are starting at 9.3 years, while black girls are starting even younger at 8.8 years of age.
"The influence of BMI on the age of puberty is now greater than the impact of race and ethnicity," said Biro.
While his study looked at 1,200 girls ages 6 to 8 in New York City, San Francisco and Cincinnati m examining them sever times between 2004-2011, a similar study by Danish researchers conducted in 2009 Danish study found that girls were beginning to develop breasts a year earlier than those born 15-16 years earlier. However, earlier breast development does not necessarily mean that they are getting their first periods yet.
"With each new study in the past two decades, we hope the age of 'early puberty' has bottomed out," wrote Marcia Herman-Giddens, a researcher at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, in an editorial published with the new study in Pediatrics.
“Each individual girl is exposed to multiple factors in today’s environment, many not present decades ago, that may potentially influence her pubertal onset including high diets of meat and dairy products, along with high-stress families, hormone-laced hair products and insulin resistance."
Still, both Biro and Herman-Giddens agree that whatever the cause, “earlier maturation” may have long-term medical consequences (not counting pregnancy) such as putting the girls at risk for developing type 2 diabetes as well as high blood pressure as they grow older.