Remember all the talk a while back about early puberty — girls as young as 7 and 8 sprouting breasts? A study in the journal Nature Genetics reports that researchers have pinpointed 30 genes linked to early-onset puberty.
The researchers studied over 100,000 women in the U.S., Europe, and Australia, and located genes that were associated with the age of first menstruation.
The genes they zeroed in on link the downward trend in age of puberty with the rising obesity epidemic. Here’s what they found:
Of the 30 genes related to the age of puberty, four were linked to BMI (body mass index), three with metabolism, and three with hormone regulation.
Why would being overweight send a girl into earlier puberty? Scientists think it might because larger fat stores send signals to the brain that the body is ready (with enough resources) to start reproduction.
Chemicals in fat trip metabolic pathways — tricking the brain into thinking it’s time to get busy having babies.
The problem, for one, is that girls who go through puberty earlier are at greater risk for certain cancers, probably owing to a greater overall exposure to hormones like estrogen.
This finding wraps together with a new report that says by the year 2020, half of the U.S. population will be struck by diabetic or pre-diabetic conditions. And the disease will cost the country $3.4 trillion dollars in the next 10 years.
Obesity rates for children have tripled since the 1980’s. The fact that puberty is starting earlier is just one indicator that our kids’ biology is steering down the wrong path.
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