Image Credit: Nanagyei / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Why Are Children Starting Puberty Earlier?

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:

I talk more about endocrine disrupting chemicals in particular in:

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

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Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


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