Obesity, Endocrine Disruptors Linked to Early Puberty

the MPR take:

In a recent opinion article, Dr. Laurence Steinberg describes the association between the obesity rate among children in the U.S. and the falling age of the onset of puberty. In the early 20th century, the average age of first signs of puberty was 13 for girls and menarche between the ages of 14–15, whereas today it is around 10 years of age and 12 years, respectively. Dr. Steinberg estimates that the drop has been consistent for boys as well, although the decline in the age of puberty is more difficult to document. While obesity does increase the likelihood of an earlier onset of puberty in children, it is not the only factor speculated to contribute; so-called “endocrine disruptors” in foods and plastics may play a role, as well as increased exposure to artificial light. Dr. Steinberg advises that education targeting parents and children regarding the importance of healthy lifestyle habits and limiting endocrine-disrupting chemicals are necessary to reverse this trend.

Reports earlier this year of a dramatic decline in childhood obesity were too good to be true. According to results of a more recent analysis, published in JAMA Pediatrics, the widely-heralded drop in the proportion of overweight young children was probably a statistical aberration.