The reason girls are getting their period earlier

Let’s talk seriously about periods.

Doctors and scientists have noticed an alarming trend. Some girls in elementary school are experiencing their first period – menarche – as early as fourth grade.

That’s 9 or 10-years-old.

This shift is noticeable across the board. In the United States, the average age for a girl’s first period is now just under 12-years-old. This is a year and a half earlier than the average for girls in 1900.

What does this mean? And could it be related to what they are eating?

Paediatric and Adolescent Gynaecologist Dr Julie Powell sees three potential causes for this earlier onset of girls’ periods: obesity, chemical exposures and social and psychological stress.

“We know kids are more obese now than they ever were in the history of our country. Right now, about one-quarter to one-fifth of children are obese. That’s not overweight, that’s obese, meaning that they are significantly above their recommended body weight. Obesity in children has tripled in the last 30 years,” she said.

And that may be important, she said, because fat cells make estrogen. The more fat cells you have, the more estrogen your body makes. Estrogen, of course, is the main female sex hormone (men have it too, in smaller amounts). So it makes logical sense that an overabundance of it could lead to earlier menstruation.

And the relationship between fat cells and puberty may extend beyond estrogen, Powell said. Two hormones control our appetite, she explained: ghrelin, which tells our bodies that we are hungry, and leptin, which tells us that we are full.

“There is a lot of interplay between the amount of fat cells that you make and how sensitive your body is to leptin,” she said. “It looks like the fatter you are, the more insensitive you are to leptin.”

And “leptin itself may be involved in puberty,” she said.

The relationship between obesity and early periods has not been definitively proved, Powell said, but substantial evidence points to an association. A disproportionate number of obese girls reach puberty earlier than those of normal weight.

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Source: Essential Kids

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