Obesity has long been associated with chronic and acute adult conditions such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes and joint pain. Many adults are cautioned to avoid living sedentary lives that are void with exercise. In addition, eating healthy foods and minimizing high fat and processed foods are thought to help offset the long term effects of obesity. For years, we have known about obesity’s impact on adults, but now a new study is revealing that obesity has a surprising impact on young girls.
The study reveals that young girls are entering puberty at a much earlier rate than young girls from just a few generations ago. The onset of a developing body, underarm hair and a menses are a few of the earmarks of puberty. As girls began to enter into puberty as young as 8 and 9 years old, researchers began to question why?
According to NBC News, “The study of more than 1,200 girls found that the median age of breast development ranged from 8.8 to 9.7 years, depending on race, with heavier girls developing breasts sooner than their thinner counterparts. Girls with earlier maturation are at risk for lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression,”
The study’s authors are quoted in the journal of Pediatrics as stating: “They are more likely to be influenced by older peers and more deviant peers, and initiate intercourse, substance use and other norm-breaking behaviors at younger ages.”
For young girls who do develop earlier, they are often mistaken for being older than they actually are which can lead to confusion, angst and even self-loathing.
Although the study asserts that more research needs to be done, it does bring to light the connection between weight and a young girl’s reproductive health. For parents who may be concerned, the study reinforces the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is also important that parents talk to their young daughters about their growing bodies so that they do not associate their body’s changes with shame and disgust.