Girls now reaching puberty at age nine, thanks to chemicals in the
food supply (milk and plastics)
average age of puberty in girls is now nine, in a phenomenon increasingly
being blamed on rising obesity and exposure to hormone-disrupting pollutants
in the food supply.
study was conducted in 2006 by researchers from the world-renowned Department
of Growth and Reproduction at University Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The researchers found that among 1,000 girls, the average age of breast
development was nine years and 10 months, a full year earlier than when
a similar study was conducted in 1991.
were very surprised that there had been such a change in a period of just
15 years," researcher Anders Juul said.
the study was conducted in Denmark, experts believe that it applies to other
parts of the First World, including Europe and the United States. This earlier
age of maturation is even more striking when compared with the 19th century,
when girls reached puberty at an average age of 15, and boys reached it
at 17. Since then, the age of puberty has moved back steadily, until age
14 for boys and age 12 for girls were formally declared "normal"
in the 1960s. These numbers were based on the average age of first period
for girls and of voices breaking for boys.
not just scientific studies suggesting these figures are now obsolete; anecdotal
reports of boys dropping out of choir schools when their voices break at
age 12 or 13 are now widespread. According to Richard Stanhope, an expert
in childhood hormonal disorders, specialists are now convinced that early
puberty is a real phenomenon.
puberty can be hard on children who are mature physically but still young
emotionally, experts warn.
the things we experience as teenagers are difficult enough to cope with,
but when it happens at 10 or 11 it is much worse," Stanhope said. "These
children are also at a much higher risk of being sexually abused, because
it is hard for some adults to understand and behave appropriately towards
interviewed anonymously by the Times of London said her early development
subjected her to teasing at school.
had to wear a bra at nine," she said. "I used to pretend to be
ill to get out of changing for PE. The worst part was men coming on to me
as though I was an adult when actually I was 11."
biological risks can also be dire. Earlier menarche in girls means a longer
lifetime exposure to estrogen, which has been linked to an increased risk
of breast cancer and heart disease.
girls mature early, they run into teenage problems at an early age and they're
more prone to diseases later on," Juul said. "We should be worried
about this regardless of what we think the underlying reasons might be.
It's a clear sign that something is affecting our children, whether it's
junk food, environmental chemicals or lack of physical activity."
don't know if this is the result of better nutrition or environmental factors,
but it does create social problems for girls who are already living in a
sexualized society," agreed Richard Sharpe, head of the human reproductive
sciences unit for the United Kingdom's Medical Research Council.
cause of early puberty remains contested, but the condition has been convincingly
linked both to increased obesity rates and to exposure to endocrine-disrupting
toxins such as bisphenol A, the chemical found in plastic water bottles
and lining canned foods and beverages.
both of these hypotheses, a recent study in the journal Public Health Nutrition
found that while only 35 percent of girls who ate meat four times a week
or fewer had reached puberty by age 12.5, 49 percent of those who ate meat
12 times a week had done so.
of persistent organic pollutants are typically higher in foods high in animal
fat, such as meat and dairy.