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Obesity and Puberty

April 5, 2007

Obesity could rush girls into puberty.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
A link between obesity and puberty. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

While child obesity rates keep going up, the age of puberty in girls keeps going down. A new study suggests that’s no coincidence. University of Michigan endocrinologist Joyce Lee and her colleagues tracked over three hundred and fifty girls over ten years. They found that girls who were overweight for their height at age three were more likely to develop breasts by age nine.

JOYCE LEE (University of Michigan):
We also found that girls who had a higher increase in their body mass index, between 36 months and seven years of age, were also more likely to have earlier puberty.

HIRSHON:
It’s not clear why, but some researchers suspect that hormones secreted by body fat may speed up sexual development. Since early puberty has been linked to many psychological and medical problems, Lee says it’s important to know if preventing obesity can help keep girls from growing up too fast.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.