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Early Puberty: Mysterious Causes, Disastrous Effects

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Guest blogger Kate Tuttle: A study released this week warns about early puberty among American girls. As many as 15 percent of the 7-year-olds studied were already beginning to develop breasts and body hair -- the first signs of the body's transformation from child to sexually mature adult. Even though age at first menstruation hasn't changed much over the past decade, the alarming findings about these early signs has experts and parents concerned.

young girl smiling
One reason the study made such explosive news, of course, is that it's not a total shock -- after reading the story, people's comments tended to center on how frequently we've all noticed the phenomenon in our own towns. Similarly unsurprising is the link between early puberty and obesity; we all know that kids are getting heavier (oftentimes ballooning past pleasingly plump into truly dangerous territory) and that along with that weight comes apredictable hormonal shift.

Still, not all obese girls go through puberty early, and not all girls going through early puberty are obese. In fact, among the most mysterious and troubling of the study's findings is that there is a persistent racial gap when it comes to early puberty. While white girls who face early puberty tend to be overweight, black girls are more at risk no matter what their size. (A full 23 percent of the black 7-year-olds studied were exhibiting signs of early puberty, compared with 15 percent in a similar 1997 study.)

This disparity makes it even more troubling to contemplate the causes of the early-puberty epidemic, which most researchers assume has roots both genetic and environmental. As with so many public-health concerns, race, economics and region play a big, often hidden, role.Could one factor be the estrogens in baby formulas, whether soy- or cows' milk-based? Could hormones in factory-farmed food be to blame? What about the plastics that we are increasingly learning play a role in our children's development?

Whatever the causes, the effects could not be less mysterious: When girls mature sexually at an age when their minds are still in early grade school, they are at risk for teasing, bullying and being sexualized by the adults in their lives. Even if the worst thing that ever happens to a girl is being mocked for having boobs two years before any other girl has them, we all know -- either from personal experience or a friend's -- what a cost that exacts on self-esteem. You only have to see the hunched posture of a young girl hiding her growing chest as she walks down the street. When that girl is already growing up in a world where she'll have to battle racism and sexism, early puberty seems an unfair extra burden.

next: Grandma, My Daughter Is NOT Your Doll
9 comments so far | Post a comment now
Krista August 20, 2010, 11:21 AM

I was formula feed and didn’t hit early puberty. More and more moms since early 90’s are breastfeeding so I don’t think baby formula is the cause.

Wake up August 21, 2010, 4:43 AM

Soy needs to be eliminated from young kids diets. It’s in baby formula, baby food and everything processed! Kids, and adults, are getting far too much of a thing we don’t really need. Soy is an Endocrine Disrupter and causing these little girls to mature faster than they should. It also causes other major health problems especially with the thyroid. It’s a crime. Wake up doctors and food manufactures. Parents demand change and answers NOW!

Karen August 21, 2010, 6:02 AM

Prevent Early Puberty
Tips parents can take to deal with this scary problem…Sara Novak

Though early puberty can be somewhat hereditary, there are also some environmental aspects that parents can and should control to keep kids from growing up too young.

Avoid foods with added hormones…
Eat organic meat and dairy. Traditional meat and dairy is laden with hormones (amongst tons of other evils) that can mimic estrogen. Not to mention what it does to the environment. The typical dairy farm (5,000 heads) produces as much waste as a town of about 100,000 people. AVOID SOY.

Serve foods with detoxifying abilities…
Organic broccoli is a great choice. Just make sure to serve tons of fiber filled organic fruits and vegetables to constantly detoxify your kids and keep their systems as clean as possible from environmental hazards.

Drink and cook with filtered water [not plastic bottled water]…
Keep your kids safe by making sure that the water that they drink is as clean as possible. Again, make sure that they drink a lot of it to detoxify the system but stay away from plastic water bottles because of the risk of BPA. One of the supposed problems with BPA is that it can cause earlier puberty in kids.

Keep your kids fit.

Early puberty also happens to little boys who are getting too much estrogen from foods like soy.

My thoughts August 21, 2010, 6:55 AM

There is TONS of info on the net on how Boys are also being ‘Feminized’ because of Phthlates and Bisphenol A….chemicals added to plastics. ALSO meat eaters are consuming MEGA Estrogen Hormones. How do ya’all think those poor factory animals grow so fast? Oh yeah, it also makes people REAL FAT because now they are consuming the growth hormones that were pumped into the poor Animals.

Hormonal imbalance has been Feminizing boys and men for over 30 years. Eliminate the chemicals and hormones in foods and the environment so boys can be normal.

See this video http://www.youtubedotcom/watch?v=fXHfdRhcMBU

MT August 22, 2010, 1:43 PM
Berenice October 12, 2010, 8:58 AM

I have seen this, not at an earl age as 7 (that’s is just disturbing) but rather in 10 year old girl, and it is worrying for it might get them into real trouble, I don’t want to get to specific but I think you know what I mean. Some old Kamagra Gel addict might be interested in them and that’s just creepy.

Lori October 13, 2010, 2:44 PM

This is not new. I’m 48 years old. That last paragraph? That’s my life story. I had a bra in fourth grade. And it wasn’t a training bra. I was bullied, tortured and, yes, molested by my stepfather. Now I see my 9 year-old daughter (adopted, no less) beginning to bud.

genuine thomas sabo charms December 20, 2010, 4:41 PM

I’m wondering now if we can talk about your sites statistics - search volume, etc, I’m trying to sites I can buy adspace through - let me know if we can talk about pricing and whatnot. Cheers mate you’re doing a great job though.

Reflexiones May 26, 2011, 12:58 AM

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