Sugary Drinks May Trigger Early Puberty in Girls

Scientists have found girls who consume more than one sugary drink a day start their periods more than two months earlier than those who consume fewer.

Scientists have found girls who consume more than one sugary drink a day start their periods at an earlier age than those who consume fewer.


Linda Geddes from New Scientist sat down with researchers who published their results in the journal of Human Reproduction. The study followed 5,583 girls (ages 9 to 14 years old) between 1996 and 2001, and they hadn't had their periods when the study began. The girls were asked to fill out an annual questionnaire, inquiring about their health, diet, and exercise, and whether or not they'd begun menstruating.

Girls who drank more than 1.5 servings of sweetened beverages a day tended to get their period 2.7 months earlier (around 12.8 years of age) than girls who consumed two or fewer sugar drinks a week (around 13 years of age). The researchers controlled for the girls' BMIs, food consumption, and exercise, and found these results were independent of these factors.

There are, of course, risks for girls that get their period early, including depression in adolescence and breast cancer later on in life. However, for the girls in this survey the researchers say that a 2-month margin isn't significant. Previous studies linking early menstruation to breast cancer have said that girls who get their period a year have a 5 percent increased risk. However, they note that their sample group that consumed more than 1.5 sugar-sweetened beverages a day is likely low compared to some other populations.

The researchers, however, state that this study doesn't prove there's a direct link to sugar drinks and early menstruation, just that there's a correlation between the two. They report that the high-glycemic levels cause an increase in insulin as a result, which could cause higher concentrations of sex hormones that have been linked to earlier periods.

The American Beverage Association sounded off about the study in a statement:

"Neither this study nor the body of science shows that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption causes early onset of menarche [first period]. What the body of science supports is that adolescent girls are reaching puberty earlier than prior generations; however, there is no scientific consensus concerning the cause of this trend.”

Still, sugar drinks have no nutritional value and have been linked with obesity, which in an of itself can cause numerous health issues. The best course of action might be to try and hold off on the soft drinks as much as possible.

Read more at New Scientist

Photo Credit: Didriks/Flickr

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