Are Children Reaching Puberty Earlier Than Before?

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Hi, everybody. We've got a great show today, get comfortable, get relaxed. So, today we're bringing you the hottest house stories of the month. And to take the pulse of these hot topics I've assembled an all star panel of the doctors. Dr. Janet Taylor is a psychiatrist and a public health expert, Dr.

Donnica Moore is a pistol, but she's also an OB/GYN, and author of Women's Health for Life. That the Cory[sp?] Ibarra[sp?] is a friend Pediatrician and Assistant Professor at Tulane University Medical Center. Let's get right into our first topic, this one is sure to concern every woman.

The age that girls are hitting puberty is getting younger and younger, but this new story, shocked even me. If you're old enough to remember the days when young girls didn't hit puberty till middle school. You'll be shocked by a sterling new study that found some girls now entering puberty as young as seven or eight years of age.

Over the last 200 years. The age of puberty has steadily dropped as nutrition and medicine have improved, but American girls are now beginning early puberty at double the rate of just a decade ago and it's happening to African-American girls at twice the rate of white girls. Doctors and parents alike are puzzled.

What's making our young girls develop so soon? Now this is important because everyone, everyone in our audience seems to be concern and you know why? Because kids are the canary in the coal mine. It's a warning sign that we have premature puberty for two reasons, it means you have a lot of childhood with obesity, but it also means you might have chemical hormones in the environment which are changing the way that kids react.

You know what? If it happens to kids, it will happen to adults, we just won't see it quite as clearly. Dr. Ibarra[sp?], you are a pediatrician. Are you seeing a lot of this in your practice? I have seen this so much and let me tell you something, this is almost an adult problem more than a child problem because parents feed their children, children don't feed themselves.So what happens is that, they have a child and they're sitting at home in the Summer, they're drinking a bunch of soda, eating a bunch of chips, I call soda the devil's urine, because no one will drink soda after I said that.

But they sit on the sofa all day and they eat and eat and eat and we know that's going to cause some hormonal changes once they become obese. This is a major problem in America and look we have to start fighting it right now on the front line if we don't I don't know what going to happen.

But that's only one part of the problem. Give me one second though, I want us to do a little quick demonstration that explains why we are worried about obesity, Dr. Moore I want to turn over to you because I know that there are other theories and hypothesis here. So, let's just pretend that the children is naturally growing through life and estrogen is coming out as it's supposed to be slowly trickling away and this line here is puberty so over the course of several years estrogen levels continue to build and accumulate and you reach that level of puberty and everything is fine.

What happens when you have obesity, when you've got fat like this accumulating especially in the belly, because it super charges this. All of a sudden you got a lot of estrogen pouring in because the fat makes estrogen so it should be an increasing quickly as you get older yet poorer[sp?] the next thing you know, you've reached puberty in fact we are seeing that more commonly now especially in African American children.

Dr. Moore. Yeah, the first thing I want to remind people is what the onset of puberty means, it does not mean girls are having their periods at this age. What his study looked at was the first sign of puberty which is the beginning of breast development in girls, so I don't want people getting too alarmed.

The age of menses or the first menstruation is still 12-12 and a half. So our concern is with estrogen levels rising earlier, are we really setting them up for higher incidence of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, hypertension, diabetes and then of coarse all this psychological issues? Exactly and I think to a seven or eight year old girl all she wants to do is be like other seven and eight year old girls so then you have to deal with the fact that psychologically they may feel different and that's one more kind of blast of their self esteem.

So it's emotional eating? It's emotional eating because we know that we are so tied to food that we are going to eat all the time. We did see a higher incidence in kids who had a higher body mass in index however that wasn't the whole story. That's why I'm worried about all of us adults included because I think same things are happening inside.