According to researchers at Cincinnati's Children's Hospital Medical Center, obese girls are beginning puberty earlier than ever before.
(Image source: WHDH ) BY DANNY MATTESON The wide-ranging and unhealthy effects of obesity have been well-documented. But a recent study points to a new downside to extra weight — one that affects young girls. According to researchers at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center obese girls are beginning puberty earlier than ever before — some as young as 8 years old. (Via CBS ) “Between 2004 and 2011 girls started to develop around age 9, overweight girls around age 8.” (Via News 12 New Jersey ) The study looked at more than 1,200 6-to-8-year-old girls over a seven-year perWCSiod. It tracked the girl’s Body Mass Index, or BMI, a ratio of height to weight, as well as how fast they matured — and it discovered girls below the 50th percentile in BMI were likely to begin developing breasts around age 10. Girls above the 85th percentile — as early as eight and a half. (Via Pediatrics , Think Progress ) The lead researcher of the study told NBC, “The girls who are obese are clearly maturing earlier. BMI is, we found, the biggest single factor for the onset of puberty.” (Via NBC ) And that early development could mean a poor prognosis for obese girls going forward. “Doctors say girls who mature early are at a greater risk of lower self-esteem, depression and lower academic achievement. As well as health issues like hypertension and several types of cancer.” (Via WCSH ) Researchers also found that among the overall trend of earlier-onset puberty there were distinctions by race. According to USA Today , obese African American girls “ continue to develop earlier than whites, reaching puberty at a median age of 8.8, vs. 9.3 years for Hispanics and 9.7 for Asians.” Obese white girls also came in at a median age of 9.7 years — beginning puberty 4 months earlier than in a similar study done in 1997. HealthDay News quotes the study’s lead researcher saying, "What seems to be happening is that white girls are 'catching up' with black girls." But the researchers were quick to point out there are other causes of early-onset puberty, including inactivity and chemicals found in food and water. Still, they estimate none play as big a role as obesity. (Via San Francisco Chronicle ) According to the CDC some 17%, or 12.5 million, U.S. children are obese. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.