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Wednesday, March 7th 2007

Obesity: Yeah So What?

More evidence of what the country’s childhood obesity ‘epidemic’ is costing. Not in terms of dollars and cents but in general health terms.

US scientists have shown that being overweight as a toddler increases the chance that a girl will reach puberty early.

They looked at height and weight at each measurement stage, and from grades 4 to 6 they also looked at pubertal stage measurements (these were based on physical examination reports and reports completed by the girls’ mothers). They also took into account other factors such as race, the mother’s education and the mother’s age when she started menstruating.

The girls’ pubertal stage was assessed according to stage of breast development and start of the menstrual cycle.

The results showed that an earlier onset of puberty was positively and consistently linked to rate of change of BMI between age 3 and grade 1, an earlier age of the mother’s own start of menstruation, and being non-white.

Apparently this isn’t a completely new idea, but merely provides a better understanding of what is going on.

The researchers said that before this study, all we knew was that higher BMI was linked to earlier onset of puberty but not which caused the other. Now this study shows it is highly likely that high BMI causes early puberty.

Other studies have shown that children are more obese than they were 30 years ago, and also that puberty in girls starts earlier than 30 years ago. Dr Lee and colleagues said their study offers strong evidence that being overweight in pre-puberty is what causes the early onset of puberty in girls.

Early onset puberty is associated with some cancers. The study is in Pediatrics [abstract, full text (subscription)].