Obese Girls Hitting Puberty Younger

Obese girls as young as seven years old are demonstrating signs of early puberty, a recent study shows, which could pose future health risks.

American girls are hitting puberty earlier than ever before and obesity could be the main reason, according to a new report.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, assessed more than 1,200 girls based on their ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), age, and whether they displayed signs of early puberty. Researchers found that girls as young as 7 and 8 are developing breasts. They believe the reason could be due to the high rate of childhood obesity, since body fat is related to the production of sex hormones.

Data indicated that by age 7, 13 percent of white girls, 23 percent of African American girls, and 15 percent of Hispanic girls were developing breasts as they normally would with the onset of puberty. Researchers also noted that girls in the study who had a higher body mass index (BMI) at 7 or 8 were much more likely to develop breasts than other girls their age.

Some experts believe that girls reaching puberty at an earlier age could put them at a higher risk for breast cancer later in life. Developing earlier than peers can also affect girls psychologically, with previous research indicating that girls who hit puberty at an early age are more likely to become depressed and start having sex at earlier ages.

“For the 11-year-old that looks like she’s 15 or 16, adults are going to interact with her like she’s 15 or 16, but so are her peers,” study author Dr. Frank Biro of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center told Fox News.

To minimize the likelihood of early onset puberty, Dr. Biro recommends that parents ensure growing girls maintain a healthy diet with lots of fresh produce, and that families eat meals together.

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