It is suggested that there is an association between childhood obesity and puberty. However, the impacts of obesity and overweight on boy and girl puberty seems opposite, according to studies on the journal Pediatrics.
Childhood obesity and puberty in girls
A study of researchers at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, US, reveals that a higher body mass index (BMI) score in girls as young as age 3, and large increases in BMI between 3 years of age and first grade are associated with earlier puberty, defined as the presence of breast development by age 9. They found that increased body fatness is associated with the earlier onset of puberty provides additional evidence that growing rates of obesity among children in the US may be contributing to the trend of early maturation in girls.
Previous studies could not confirm whether puberty led to the weight gain or weight gain led to the earlier onset of puberty. But the study of scientists from University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital provides evidence that it is the latter. The researchers recorded BIM and weight status, breast development as well as children’s ages at the onset of menstrual periods from ages 3 to 12 of 354 girls from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in 10 regions of the United States.
The study shows that higher BMI scores at all ages appear to have a strong association with an earlier onset of puberty in girls. Earlier onset of puberty also was associated with higher BMI change between age 3 and first grade — a period well before the onset of puberty.
Seriously, earlier onset of puberty at girls with obesity and overweight may results in higher rates of behavioral problems and psychosocial stress, as well as earlier initiation of alcohol use, sexual intercourse, and increased rates of adult obesity and reproductive cancer.
Childhood obesity and puberty in boys
In contrast, childhood obesity and overweight can lead to a later onset of puberty in boys, according to another study of researchers at the University of Michigan Health System. The study includes have important implications for understanding sex differences in physiological mechanisms of puberty.
The study was conducted on 401 boys from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in 10 regions of the U.S. The participants were examined their body mass index (BMI) trajectories, which is the way children’s body fatness changes over the course of childhood.
Children were divided into low, intermediate, and high body mass index (BMI) trajectories. Children were divided into low, intermediate, and high body mass index (BMI) trajectories. The results show that children in the low group were on the thinner side throughout childhood, while children in the high group were on the heavier side. Researcher also adopted Tanner genitalia staging to measure puberty. Boys who were in Stage 1, defined as a lack of genital development by 11 ½ years of age, were defined as having later onset of puberty.
From the findings of this study, it is important to identify exactly how increased body fat leads to earlier puberty in girls and later puberty in boys to prevent these adverse effects in further studies.