How WEIGHT can affect puberty: Obese girls likely start their periods earlier, but develop breasts more slowly, study reveals
- The researchers studied 90 girls between the ages of 8 and 15, 36 of whom were obese
- Previous studies have found that obese girls start puberty earlier
- Obese girls had higher levels of some key hormones than slim girls
- Linked to slow breast maturation, irregular periods, acne, and excess body hair
Obese girls approaching adolescence have elevated hormone levels that can lead them to start their periods earlier than their slimmer peers, a new study found.
Overweight girls are also at increased risk for irregular menstrual cycles, delayed breast development, acne, and excessive body hair during puberty.
Previous research also found that fatter young men start puberty earlier, but the new study is the first evidence why this may be the case.
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Overweight girls are more likely to develop acne and excess body hair as they go through puberty than their slimmer peers, study states (stock)
Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) studied 90 girls between the ages of 8 and 15, 36 were obese and 54 were “normal” weight.
They were followed regularly for four years with doctors who performed ultrasound scans of their breasts and pelvic regions, as well as measuring hormone levels from a blood sample. Each girl also revealed when she had her first period.
“Girls with higher total body fat showed higher levels of some reproductive hormones, including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), inhibin B, and male hormones like testosterone,” said lead author Dr. Natalie Shaw.
Research from the US found that girls who have too much puppy fat have different hormone levels during adolescence than someone who was an ideal (stock) weight
It adds that girls with higher levels of body fat, as determined by a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scanner, were also younger at the time of their first period and had delayed breast maturation. .
However, it was found that body fat and subsequently altered hormone levels have no discernible impact on the development of the uterus and ovaries.
Dr. Shaw adds, “The long-term consequences of these differences in puberty markers deserve further study.”
The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
A 2007 study followed 354 girls through puberty and found that obese girls had an 80 chance of having their first period before age 12.
A correlation between weight and puberty has long been observed, but this was one of the first studies to show that weight likely caused early puberty, and not the other way around.
However, a 2017 study from Imperial College London found that girls who start puberty earlier are also more likely to be overweight in adulthood.
According to Dr. Dipender Gill, lead author of the Imperial study, this was evidence that early puberty causes obesity in adulthood.
Both Dr. Gill and Dr. Joyce Lee, lead author of the 2007 study from the University of Michigan, believe they identified causality, indicating that being obese in childhood causes early puberty and this, in turn, causes obesity in adulthood.
However, although the relationship was established, it is unknown exactly what caused it.
OBESITY: ADULTS WITH A BMI OVER 30 ARE OBESE
Obesity is defined as an adult who has a BMI of 30 or more.
The BMI of a healthy person, calculated by dividing the weight in kg by the height in meters, and the answer by the height again, is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Among children, obesity is defined at the 95th percentile.
The percentiles compare young people with others their own age.
For example, if a three-month-old baby is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40 percent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.
Around 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men in the UK are overweight or obese.
The condition costs the NHS around £ 6.1 billion, out of its approximate budget of £ 124.7 billion, each year.
This is because obesity increases a person’s risk for a number of life-threatening conditions.
These conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness, and even limb amputations.
Research suggests that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK is occupied by a patient with diabetes.
Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease, which kills 315,000 people each year in the UK, making it the leading cause of death.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers.
This includes the breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.
Among children, research suggests that 70 percent of obese youth have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, putting them at risk for heart disease.
Obese children are also significantly more likely to become obese adults.
And if children are overweight, their obesity in adulthood is often more severe.
One in five children start school in the UK overweight or obese, increasing to one in three by the time they turn 10.