Early onset of puberty is considered a risk factor for a number of diseases in adulthood, including hormone-related cancers, a shorter lifespan, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.
The conventional thinking has been that the age of puberty has been getting earlier and earlier because our children have been getting fatter and fatter. However, European kids are also getting heavier, yet there has not been a steady decline in puberty onset (see graphs here). So it may be less about how much kids are eating and more about what they're eating.
The most consistent link between diet and premature puberty has been found to be animal protein consumption. Every gram of daily animal protein intake--that's just like the weight of a paperclip--has been associated with a 17% increase in the risk of girls starting their periods earlier than age 12.
Why this link between animal protein and premature puberty? We know meat increases the level of IGF-1 and that alone is associated with early onset puberty. If you're not familiar with insulin-like growth factor 1, I have a series of videos about the growth hormone (though mostly in relation to cancer risk). See, for example, The Answer to the Pritikin Puzzle and Cancer-Proofing Mutation.
The early onset of puberty in girls associated with animal protein consumption may also be due to endocrine disrupting chemical pollutants in the meat supply. Watch my 4-min video Protein, Puberty, and Pollutants.
For more videos on premature puberty see:
- Protein & Puberty
- Dairy & Sexual Precocity
- Xenoestrogens & Early Puberty
- The Effect of Soy on Precocious Puberty
I talk more about endocrine disrupting chemicals in particular in:
- Xenoestrogens & Sperm Counts
- Pollutants in Californian Breast Tissue
- Flame Retardant Chemical Contamination
- Food Sources of Flame Retardant Chemicals
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: Nanagyei/Flickr