Girls who drink a lot of soda are more likely to get their periods earlier than girls that don’t. Researchers publishing in the journal Human Reproduction, followed 5,500 U.S. girls ages 9 to 14 who had not started their periods at the start of the study. The girls were asked questions about their diets and how frequently they consumed soda and other sugary drinks. Their diets were tracked for five years between 1996 to 2001.
According to the study, girls that drank more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks daily started their periods three months earlier than those that consumed fewer sugar sweetened drinks. This was true even after factoring in the girl’s height, body mass index, ethnicity, activity level, and total food intake--all factors that could impact early menstruation.
"Our study adds to increasing concern about the widespread consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks among children and adolescents in the USA and elsewhere," study author Karin Michels, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. "The results are important because researchers have observed that girls in developed countries may be entering puberty at younger ages, but the reason for this change remains unclear," she said.
A number of factors could be at play here: Sugary drinks lead to obesity, which can cause early puberty. But this study only found a small link between BMI and early periods. So researchers think it could be that eating foods which quickly raise your blood sugar and increase levels of the hormone insulin, which could be causing the association, LiveScience reported.
Professor Michels concluded: "Our findings provide further support for public health efforts to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks."
A one year decrease in the age of a girl’s first period may increase her risk of breast cancer by 5 percent. Another study published in the journal Pediatrics found that more girls are getting their periods at earlier ages. Puberty may be coming earlier than 10 to 14, the ages considered normal by the National Institutes of Health.
"Ten percent of white girls at age 7 have breast development to some extreme, which is way younger than our original standard of evaluating normal versus abnormal," Dr. Ann Budzak, a pediatrician with Gundersen Lutheran Health System in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, said to ABC News.
Researchers aren’t sure why girls are getting their periods earlier than ever before, but factors like hormones in food could also have an impact. Meat and dairy, staples of the standard American diet, may contain growth hormones meant to speed up livestock growth, but humans ingest them as well. Buying organic meat and dairy is a good way to avoid hormones in your food. Additionally, as this study shows, sugary drinks could be another culprit that changes the way our bodies function, even at the developmental stages.
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