Recently, a report hit online stating that as many as 15% of American girls are going through puberty as early as seven years of age. Now, parents are scrambling to figure out what they can do to prevent this growing trend. Studies have found a number of risks associated with early puberty including an increase risk of pregnancy, lower IQ, aggression, drug and alcohol abuse and even suicide! Although researchers don’t have a clear picture of the exact cause, there is solid evidence that points in a few directions.
Various studies here and abroad have shown a connection between obesity and early development. One of the most cited studies was conducted by Joyce Lee of the University of Michigan who followed 354 girls from age 3 to age 12. In the study, Lee discovered a strong association between high body weight and the early onset of puberty. It seems that high levels of peripheral fat cause excess estrogen production, which in turn could lead to early puberty. However, researchers caution that more information is needed to confirm this theory.
Hormones in Food
Hormones in our food supply may also be to blame. Starting in 1995, the USDA has allowed meat suppliers to use implanted hormonal agents such as female hormones oestradiol and progesterone, the synthetic progesterone norgestomet, the male hormone testosterone and the synthetic anabolic steroids trenbolene and Zeranol. And the FDA does NOT require that meat providers list the hormones used in their operations—or share the potential negative side effects. You may be surprised to learn that there are FDA studies that confirm the harmful effects of cattle raising hormones, yet they are still legal. The best that consumers can do is to purchase meats that are hormone free. Don’t count on your local fast food joint, or even your favorite high-priced restaurant to invest in high-quality, hormone-free meat.
Soy is another problem because it contains plant-based chemicals that mimic oestrogen. A 1997 Lancet study showed the daily exposure in infants who consumed soy formulas was 6 to 11 times higher than in adults. The blood concentrations of these hormones in the children were 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than normal oestrogen levels.
Plastics and Chemicals
Despite how much easier plastics have made our lives they can contain problematic chemicals called Phthalates. Research has indicated that Phthalates are a hormone distributor that can impact young children and even those in the womb! Thankfully, there is a crop of Phthalate free products popping up to choose from!